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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Kidnapped’

September 30, 2010
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Harrowing is the word that keeps coming to mind every time I think about this nasty little Spanish thriller, also known as Secuestrados.   It’s a nail biter from the opening long-cut sequence to the shocking conclusion.

The film begins with a bloodied man in a business suit (with a white plastic bag tied over his head) desperately trying to catch a breath of air as he stumbles toward a road.  Since he can’t see, he walks right into oncoming traffic, and ends up on the hood of a car.

The horrified driver assists him in removing the bag, and the man pleads for the driver to call his house. He tries to warn his daughter not to let anyone in and to call the police.

It’s too late, his daughter says, they are already there, and they have shot mom… The entire opening is filmed in one continuous take, and it is tense as hell.

Next up we see a (different) man and his family moving into their beautiful contemporary home.  Wife Marta (Ana Wagener) directs the moving crew on where to deliver boxes, and has planned a celebratory family night to settle into their posh new home. Daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés) has opted for a night out with her boyfriend instead.

Before the two can resolve their differences, their familial bickering is silenced by a trio of home invaders who forcefully and swiftly let it be known that they mean business. One takes off with dad Jaime (Fernando Cayo) in order to drain his bank account at the ATM.

That leaves Marta and Isa to fend for themselves against the terrifying thugs who brutalize and torment the women over the course of the evening.

The film takes place in real-time, and makes great use of split screen during some of the excruciating scenes. The rest of the scenes are shot as single uncut shots, so the audience gets to experience the sequence of events as the characters do. It’s a unique approach, particularly when coupled with the split screen.

The tension doesn’t let up for one moment during the movie: it’s unrelenting.  It’s also shockingly realistic. Although I’m sure some will find Manuela Vellés’s performance grating, I think it was a stark portrayal of a teen-aged girl in pure shock.  She experiences the brunt of a sadistic sexual assault, and can’t be calmed for the remainder of the movie.

What’s truly horrifying about the movie is that the men come under the ruse of wanting money, but things escalate to much more in a short period of time.  There is no rhyme or reason to their actions, other than a sense of misplaced entitlement.

The attackers remain masked throughout most of the film, giving them a bogey-man presence; they seem completely stripped of humanity.

Kidnapped is one of the more bleak films I saw at Fantastic Fest.  It ends abruptly, on a note that will really tick you off, or will make you admire the audacity of director Miguel Ángel Vivas.  I vote for the latter.

Kidnapped is directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas.  Written by Miguel Ángel Vivas and Javier García.  Starring Manuela Vellés, Ana Wagener, and Fernando Cayo. Spanish; subtitled.   Fantastic Fest hosted the world premiere of the film, which won best horror movie  and best director at the festival.

Rating 4.5/5

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