For all of its conceptual flaws, Kidnapped is an ambitious film for the horror crowd – especially the horror festival crowd – given their reputation for being easily pleased as long as there’s a bloody stump on show. With this 85-minute home invasion pic, which is divided into 12 stylishly-composed shots, it’s clear that director Miguel Angel Vivas wants to make his debut feature an artful one, though as co-writer, he still has plenty to learn before he can make a truly effective thriller-horror.
The story is simple; a small family are moving into their lavish new Madrid home when, on their first night there, they are assailed by three masked Eastern-European criminals who aim to take them for everything they have. Naturally, the situation becomes more complicated once the family come to doubt that the criminals will simply up and leave once their job is done, and things get very out of hand soon enough.
It’s certainly beautifully shot, but for a large portion of its runtime, Kidnapped is also relatively low on energy and originality; it’s essentially simplistic home invasion fare dressed up in luscious cinematography and impressive tracking shots, and for his admittedly stellar efforts behind the camera, director Miguel Angel Vivas expects us to bite down on the rickety narrative. Only in the second half as things get messier does the situation really get much more interesting, for in the first half too much time is devoted to discussions about the family moving into their home, especially given the film’s brevity.
Once the situation finally worsens and the tension ratchets up, Vivas employs some gimmicky but effective techniques, such as dividing the screen into two 24-style boxes to provide glimpses of multiple locations simultaneously. At this point, while the narrative is still stuck in the mire of pollished torture-porn, it does finally seem to flash into gear, with plenty of urgency, a pulsy soundtrack and intense, naturalistic performances.
It’s difficult to appreciate the story or the decent performances much, though, when the actors are so blatantly hamstrung by the mind-numbing stupidity of their characters. Both the “heroes” and villains suffer as a result, as does the sense of suspense, stifled by improbable character contrivances you’ll either turn your nose up at or, if you buy into the whole concept enough, hastily brush under the carpet (but it’s probably the former).
As with too many of these films, the focus eventually becomes less on the family unit trying to survive and instead on a cliched decension in the ranks of the assailants; we’ve seen it dozens of times before, yet there was the hope here that with a film of such stylistic sophistication that it might also have something new to show in the narrative department. Still, it is at least a gorgeous and interesting film to look at; one particular shot, in which two split-screen shots are seamlessly combined into one, will leave you agape.
The ending is bluntly ugly and liable to strike plenty of viewers the wrong way. Also, as the credits roll, it becomes apparent how smugly and deceptively placed the film’s opening scene is, specifically intended to mislead, while not being a touch as clever as it thinks it is.
Plenty diverting from a stylistic perspective, but the story behind the flair is positively stone-age.
Kidnapped currently has no U.K. release date scheduled.
This article was first posted on August 27, 2011