Director – Miguel Ángel Vivas
Cast – Fernando Cayo, Manuela Vellés, Ana Wagener, Guillermo Barrientos, Dritan Biba, Martijn Kuiper, Xoel Yáñez, Luis Iglesia
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Kidnapped became one of the most hyped horror films of 2011 after debuting at the Austin Fantastic Fest film festival last year. I read some pretty good things about this piece and seeing that it came from Spain, one of horror’s heavy-hitters as of late, I figured it would provide me with a damn good horror experience in the vein of REC. Going in with high expectations is normally frowned upon in every genre these days, but I really expected to enjoy Kidnapped given films like this bring a lot of intensity, but Kidnapped brought more than that – it brought torment for the viewer. Filmed in a very creative and full-frontal fashion, this Spanish effort provides for one of the more brutal films of the year (what The Human Centipede II should have accomplished) despite coming off tasteless (what The Human Centipede II did accomplish) and direction-driven with little story.
After moving into a lavish new home in a gated community a family of three is subjected to brutal forms of torture and torment when three Albanian criminals force their way into the home demanding money. Things do not go as planned for both the family and the criminals, resulting in maniacal bloodshed that neither party planned on experiencing that night.
The story is as simple as it gets, focusing on the family and their demanding captors who brutalize them in order to capitalize on their riches. It does not take long for this 80 minute piece to get going, and once the criminals make their way into the home all hell literally breaks loose. Most of the story takes place in the home, which I liked, but we are eventually taken on a ride with the father and one of the criminals who uses him to withdraw money from all of his ATM cards. It is during this somewhat long sequence that the film slows down and we are given a bit of character development from the father and his captor, proving to be the only scene invoking positive emotion from our characters instead of the usual screaming and yelling going on. This storyline provides for much tension thanks to how the criminals treated the family, who suffered not just physical and mental trauma but even (possible spoiler approaching) sexual trauma that I never saw coming – trauma that came very hard-hitting and seemingly out of nowhere. Writers Miguel Ángel Vivas and Javier Garcia did not give us much overall with their story but I applaud him for giving us plenty of horror in his simple screenplay that came with a shocking climax that I expected but had no clue would be as brutal as it was. Honestly, I found the climax and the entire third act to be a bit shaky due to the heavy amounts of horror going on during the first two acts, which in a sense lessened the impact of the climax a bit despite its graphic nature. This brings me to the “tasteless” accusation I made earlier, which reflects constantly throughout the piece. The screenplay takes little time to properly execute the characters and the trauma they go through, instead we are simply given horror and torture for the sake of horror and torture. Now, I love me some horror and torture as much as any genre fan does, but this is the reason why the film received a generous 7-rating instead of a higher one like most other positive Spanish flicks.
Thankfully, Miguel Ángel Vivas’ and Javier Garcia’s screenplay is given some life by Vivas’ fantastic execution and expert direction. For starters, his cinematography is fantastic and almost mind-blowing at times. How so? He puts us IN the film with his usage of shaky cam technology and does so by giving us this entire 80 minute experience in only 12 “scenes”. Each scene was shot without any obvious cuts and was a direct result in this film feeling so real for the viewer. Now, I cannot attest that this piece was filmed with only 12 scenes, especially with Hitchcock-esque tactics where you simply splice the takes during a dark spot in the film, but it appears to be shot in 12 scenes and that is ultimately what matters. When one of the family members breaks free from captivity and runs about the house screaming and panicking we are taking along for the ride through every turn, every room, and every time that they get dragged back and beaten or subjected to more torture. Miguel Ángel Vivas’s execution of the horror benefited greatly due to his filming technique putting us face-first into the sometimes hard-to-watch events going on. The acting performances aided the horror as well, and while they mainly consisted of just pleading and screaming they actresses (the main screamers) were believable and held up their end. Of course, I am speaking of the subtitled Spanish version of the film and not the atrocious English-dubbed version that I initially got my hands on, forcing me to wait even longer until I finally came across this superior version.
Overall, Kidnapped is one of the most densely tense horror films of the year, giving us full-frontal horror in the vein of some notable POV horror flicks. The horror is great and hard to watch at times, coming off sometimes as mere shock value but nonetheless leaving the audience with an experience they will not soon forget.