I have two fears that have plagued me for years. One involves peanut butter, my dog, and a Kathy Griffin-induced priapism. That’s probably the less likely of the two. The second though is grounded in reality and involves the terrifying concept of home invasions.
Kidnapped is not about a mutt licking peanut butter off of an erect penis.
But it is about the sudden violence inherent in being the victim of a home invasion. A family is held hostage, restrained, and terrorized, and it’s the kind of seemingly random event that could happen to anyone. It makes for an incredibly suspenseful and tense affair that takes the audience into a brutal but rewarding nightmare… at least until the final sixty seconds when the filmmakers take a giant shit on the audience’s collective face.
A man awakens in a field, his hands bound behind his back, a plastic bag tied over his head. Panic sets in as he makes his way towards someone, anyone, to help before he suffocates. A passerby puts an air hole in the bag and the man immediately requests a cell phone. He calls home and tells his daughter to get everyone out of the house… but it’s too late. “They shot mom,” says the shock-filled young voice on the other end of the line.
The action moves to a large home bustling with activity as a family settles in with the help of movers. A single tracking shot follows the father into the home and throughout its rooms and hallways where we’re introduced to his wife and daughter. Their evening unfurls with conversations, arguments, and dinner until three masked men smash their way in and take control with threats of violence. And actual violence.
The remainder of the film plays out almost in real time as one of the kidnappers take the father for a drive to nearby ATMs for cash and the remaining two stay with the mother and daughter. What follows is a battle of wills featuring escape attempts, sudden violence, sexual assault, and the unfortunate arrival of outside visitors.
The film keeps the viewer on edge throughout thanks to a sharp and varied script, a tight focus on the characters that make up the family, and a technical brilliance that allows the film to consist entirely of ten (or so) tracking shots that run about ten minutes each. It’s not about jump scares, it’s about building almost unbearable tension before uncorking it in multiple flurries of action and terror.
A common issue with these kinds of films is often found in the reactions and actions of the victims. Unlike generic and poorly written schlock like the new Mother’s Day film, the characters here actually make repeated attempts at escape and fighting back. They drop the ball sometimes, and the daughter has an incredibly annoying whimper that lasts for several minutes (and almost had me reaching into the screen to bludgeon her myself), but they’re solidly believable people most of the time. The Eastern European baddies aren’t given nearly as much depth, but they don’t need it. We get their motivations and central character traits fairly easily.
Kidnapped (aka Secuestrados or Hostages) is a wildly tense affair that will have you triple checking your door locks for nights to come. This can happen. This has happened. And co-writer/director Miguel Angel Vivas has crafted a sharp, brutal, and ridiculously suspenseful film that would probably drive prescriptions for Cymbalta and Prozac through the roof if it ever secured a wide release.
And so ends the review of the film’s first 99 minutes. See below for the review of the film’s final sixty seconds.
Fuck you Miguel Angel Vivas. Fuck you.