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Horror history in the first decade of the 21st century has
already been reflected on as a time of torture cinema as a reaction to the war on
terror and all it wrought in the U.S. But in the last five years or so, a more
interesting and successful (in terms of quality, expression of universal fears
and possible reaction to a post-9/11 world) global screen trend has addressed
the home invasion. America has most notably contributed THE STRANGERS (and even
THE COLLECTOR, worth mentioning for its marriage of this theme with
torture/traps), France hit hard with INSIDE and ILS (THEM), the UK offers the
upcoming CHERRY TREE LANE from THE COTTAGE’s Paul Andrew Williams and, this
year, Spain put forth the must-see KIDNAPPED.
KIDNAPPED (a.k.a. SECUESTRADOS, playing in New York City as
part of Lincoln Center’s Spanish Cinema Now series, and set for wider
U.S. release next year from IFC Films) is a movie that forces one to re-examine
past uses of the word “harrowing,” just to see if they truly match up to the
standard this one sets. It’s a simple story concerning a family of three—Jaime
(Fernando Cayo), Marta (Ana Wagener) and their daughter Isa (Manuela Velles)—on
the first day they settle into their new home, and the three masked men who
violently barge in with the worst intentions.
As with most films of such a basic narrative structure,
KIDNAPPED boils down to performance and storytelling, and both are exceptional
here. What will likely come up most readily when discussing the movie will be
director Miguel Ángel Vivas’ work with cinematographer Pedro J. Marquez, as
they have crafted a film with an notably minimal amount of shots and cuts.
Steeped in beautifully choreographed long takes, KIDNAPPED becomes
gut-wrenchingly visceral, a brutal experience entrenched in reality. Without an
invasive score to jolt us every time a shock moment happens, Vivas is able to
add authenticity to his surprises, moments of true fright that are all the more
effective in a well-presented theatrical screening.
As the break-in goes on, the clear leader of the three
criminals takes Jaime on a trip, visiting ATMs with each family member’s
various bank cards and leaving the two women alone with the underlings. Vivas
cranks the tension and genuine terror up even higher with two instances of
split-screen, and it’s probably the best use of that stylistic tool in recent
memory. The first juxtaposes a relatively tranquil driving scene with the chaos
that erupts in the home while the two men are gone, and the second is a frantic
and nerve-wracking sequence in which each side veers out of control as you’re
forced to watch both. It’s a simple yet exciting bit of sensory overload.
While the villains of the piece are relatively archetypal
(the leader, the hothead, the reluctant), Jaime, Marta and Isa are the heart of
KIDNAPPED, a relatable family whose ordeal is nothing short of heartbreaking.
And Cayo (Belén Rueda’s husband in THE ORPHANAGE), Wagener and Velles should be
commended all the more for their work amidst the elaborate, often intimate and
confrontational takes, laying their struggle bare before the audience’s eyes.
KIDNAPPED isn’t an easy watch. Its carnage (the blood and
gore FX are seamless and stunning throughout) and nihilistic nature will turn
some off; there isn’t much reprieve, and many will find the film mean-spirited
and unrelenting. Speaking for myself, it’s been a long time since I looked
through my fingers at what was up on the screen. KIDNAPPED truly is an unforgettable
blend of sheer ferocity and genuine terror at what will happen next.
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