I know we deal with some nasty crimes, so watching a film depicting a violent home invasion in a realistic manner may not be something you’re inclined to watch while escaping the crap you read on here. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, boy do I have a film for you.
Kidnapped is a Spanish home invasion film directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas that echoes a bit of the original Funny Games, The Strangers, or more recently, Cherry Tree Lane. But unlike those films, Vivas seems to abandon any form of social commentary or cheap scares, simply turning those who choose to watch into a neutered witness to a horrific crime.
Jaime (Fernando Cayo), his wife Marta (Ana Wagener) and their teenage daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés) have just moved into their new home located in a gated community when, on their first night there, three masked men break in and hold them hostage.
Their motive is money. and they plan on getting it by forcing Jaime to accompany the gang’s leader around town and empty out his bank accounts at various ATMs. To keep Jaime compliant, the remaining two thugs stay at the home with his wife and daughter. He is assured that as long as things go smoothly, no harm will come to him or his family. The same cannot be said if Jaime or his family attempt to flee, or try to seek help in any way.
As you probably suspect, nothing goes as planned and everything starts going to hell fairly quickly, thanks in part to the family gambling with their lives, unexpected guests, and a sociopath hostage taker who’s becoming more unhinged with each passing hour. He’s a monster and he’s taken quite an interest in his teenage captive.
I know some of you tuned out as soon as I said the words “Spanish film” but before you dismiss Kidnapped because you cannot read and watch a movie at the same time, at least check out the trailer:
Not bad looking, right? The trailer is a bit misleading as they have made the film out to be an action film of sorts. Trust me when I say it’s not. While it does have some action and scenes of extreme violence, including a head bashing that’s almost as disturbing as the one in Irreversible, these are sprinkled among long, one-take scenes where not much happens.
These tracking shots are technically pretty good but can last up to 10 minutes of nothing but Isa’s incessant sniveling. I didn’t mind it as I thought these longer scenes helped sell the realistic nature of the events as they unfolded. While I like my slow-burners, the conflict in Kidnapped begins almost immediately and the violence ratchets up with the tension as time progresses, especially the final moments in which Vivas goes overkill.
This violence is where critics seem to have the most problems and one reason why the film sits at a 33% on Rottentomatoes. Critics don’t like no apparent reason behind this level of pain and misery being inflicted on innocent people. Sometimes all it takes is a half-assed stab at society for critics to get on board. Red White and Blue did it. Martyrs did it. Hell, I even thought A Serbian Film did it. Kidnapped? Not so much. The lack of any reason behind the film’s violence leads to phrases like “nihilistic viciousness,” “gruesome tit-for-tat torture porn,” and “paranoid simulated snuff” being used by critics who don’t like it while “ruthless efficiency,” “thrillingly visceral,” and “masterpiece” are used by the minority who do.
Aside from the extreme gore and watching innocent people destroyed for no real reason, there’s also some bad acting on the part of Vellés, and a noticeable mean-streak running through the film. There were times I had a sneaking suspicion that Vivas disliked me personally and enjoyed dangling the hope of the family’s rescue in front of my face so that he could slap the shit out of me every time I took the bait.
We read about about home invasion cases all the time. Like what happened to the Groene family at the hands of Joseph Duncan, or the horrors experienced by the Petit family in which a robbery spiraled into child rape and murder. As a father I can almost self-induce an anxiety attack imagining the terror these helpless people experienced. I think that’s why I can say I’m glad I watched Kidnapped and appreciated that it showed the reality of these crimes, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.
Like this site, do not view Kidnapped if you are having a great day.