Directed By: Miguel Ángel Vivas
Starring: Fernando Cayo, Ana Wagener, Manuela Vellés, Xoel Yáñez, Guillermo Barrientos, Dritan Biba, Martijn Kuiper
Yes, we want our horror films to be scary, but being too scary is a major genre pitfall. Often this stems from a film being exploitative and dousing us in incredibly gory or disturbing visuals, but sometimes we get the beautiful juxtaposition of a film being so well done that it feels too real. What can be more genuinely horrifying than that?
Jaime, Marta (Fernando Cayo and Ana Wagener) and their daughter, Isa (Manuela Vellés), move into a gorgeous new home. Marta wants to have a family dinner to celebrate, but like most young girls, Isa would rather spend the night out at a party with her boyfriend, César (Xoel Yáñez). Mom won’t budge, but when daddy’s little girl asks her father, she gets her way. Of course, this upsets Marta who pleads with Jaime that they both be on the same side of these issues.
Well, none of that matters anyway because before Isa can even finish getting ready for her big night out, a trio of masked men break into their beautiful new abode and take the family hostage. Jaime is forced to ride with one of the intruders around town collecting money from various ATMs while his wife and daughter remain at home with the other two assailants. The deal is, if Jaime cooperates and gets the men their money, his family will be spared.
Like with most horror films, writer-director Miguel Ángel Vivas opts to open strong. We start with a troubling shot of a man desperately trying to breathe with a plastic bag over his head. Every time he unsuccessfully gasps for air, you feel that same sensation of breathlessness with an increasing intensity. As the scene progresses, we literally follow this man, via the camera, as he attempts to find help with his hands tied behind his back and that bag over his head. As wonderfully effective as this sequence is, it completely loses its value having absolutely no correlation to the rest of the film.
That’s when things shift to the family and their new house. A great deal of time is dedicated to setting the stage for the massacre. We literally follow each member of the family from room to room as they go about their business, establishing a great deal of character development as well as the family dynamic. Yes, the trio appears to be your average family, but that’s the point. Vivas is going for your gut by proposing terrible things can happen to just about anyone. Even better, as normal as this family seems, they’re not normal in the cliché movie sense. Vivas and his co-writer, Javier García, take standard family issues and spice them up with entirely original dialogue that’s specific to these particular people making it feel as though we haven’t heard this type of prattle hundreds of times before.
As much as you’ll appreciate the honest family dynamic, it also make the more vicious part of the film that much more disturbing. Marta may be a tough mom, Jaime a somewhat aloof father and Isa a little bit of a brat, but ultimately they’re good people who love each other very much, so when the masked men break in and threaten to tear that apart, it’s rather painful to watch. Of course this is a testament to the film’s ability to scare, but like the victims of the crime, you just want it to be over. Kidnapped isn’t exploitative, rather intensely honest and that makes it even more potent and, ultimately, impossible to enjoy per se.
As tough as it is so watch, there’s no denying that Kidnapped is a triple threat. First off, the performances are really as good as they come. Kidnapped isn’t some tacky home invasion film. The stars give us very authentic reactions. Should someone break into your home, you might not have the time or sense to grab a weapon. Here, the shock of the situation is horribly debilitating. Whereas it seems so simple for the characters to just go along with the bad guys’ plan and hopefully they’ll uphold their end of the bargain of sparing their lives for money, natural emotions are overwhelming and cause the family members to cry uncontrollably and make brash decisions.
Vivas has a spectacular cast and knows it. Just about the entire film consists of lengthy tracking shots; following a family member through the halls of the house, tailing Jaime to the ATM machine and back, shooting an entire conversation from one camera set-up. There’s absolutely no flashy visuals and it works beautifully. This style of shooting brings the viewer closer to the characters making you feel as though you’re in this house yourself. Pair that with seemingly realistic dialogue and series of events and you’ve got a piece that feels terrifyingly real.
However, this is also Kidnapped’s downfall. It’s impossible to recommend the film, for who’d actually want to go through such an experience? Clearly if that’s your thing, Kidnapped is everything you’ve dreamed of and more, but for moviegoers with a degree of sensitivity, this is one that’ll be tough to get through and will likely leave one heck of a scar.
By Perri Nemiroff