Film Review: Secuestrados (Kidnapped) (2010)

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In recent years, horror has found a good deal of its standout films in the international arena, free from Hollywood constraints and the dominance of formula found so often in western cinema.

France, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Sweden have brought forth some of the most brutal and beautiful films of the genre, ranging from the ultra-real to the ridiculous. Somewhere in between, we find the Spanish film Secuestrados (2011, written/directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas and released in the U.S. as Kidnapped), an extremely tight, fast-paced, and unblinking look into the horror of home invasion. Well-made but mean, Secuestrados pulls no punches, a characteristic that, in the end, both makes and breaks this ferocious little film.

We’ve seen home invasion done before, with varying twists on a fairly simple theme:  unsuspecting homeowners are overpowered, menaced, and brutalized by one or more unyielding assailants, who pick off our protagonists one by one. In this respect, Secuestrados follows the formula, recalling Michael Haneke’s Funny Games in tone, sporting a heightened sense of alarming reality and an almost fuck-you attitude toward its audience. While this movie will hook you from the get-go and have you holding on for dear life all the way, its ultimately-confounding final moments make it hard to process; this is not a movie that leaves one clamoring for a second look.

< spoilers ahead.. >

Secuestrados begins with a punch to the gut and never lets up. In its opening scenes, we are shown a bound and badly-beaten man, plastic bag over his head, waking up disoriented and frantically searching for help. After stumbling onto a road and flagging down a passing car, he begs to use the driver’s phone, warning his family that danger is coming; there is chaos on the other end, and it’s obvious that he is too late.

In one of the very few cuts throughout the film, it’s at this point that we move to our protagonists: Jaime, Marta, and their teenaged daughter, Isa. Obviously well-off but otherwise unremarkable, they are bickering as they direct a moving crew. As night falls on their first evening in a new home, three hooded intruders burst in and overtake them, beating them immediately into submission as they begin the robbery. We see Jaime separated from his wife and daughter, and separated they remain through the duration of the film.

Alone with two captors, the women are terrorized in relatively standard fashion for what feels like an eternity; the film’s sparse editing provides a real-time immersion in their panic. As the women are chased unendingly through the house, the camera follows, continuously placing the viewer squarely inside the action and ratcheting up the film’s ever-present feeling of suspense. Several obstacles confront the antagonists: Jaime attempts to get help, an unexpected visitor arrives at the house, a policeman comes to investigate reports of screaming. All of these complications are dealt with swiftly, leaving the intruders to their assault and culminating in the policeman’s murder and the rape of Isa.

Isa manages to gain the upper hand, bludgeoning her rapist with a very heavy and previously-telegraphed piece of abstract art. She subsequently overtakes his partner, and the feeling of relief is palpable as the screen splits to reveal Jaime, coming home after crashing his vehicle and seemingly neutralizing his own captor. The family, in various states of shock, tearfully reunites; here, where it feels like the credits should be rolling, Jaime’s passenger returns, blowing each family member’s head off in rapid succession.

Secuestrados is brilliantly filmed, sharply edited, and incredibly well-directed, with enough gore to satisfy the bloodthirsty and enough tension to engage any discriminating horror fan. With the volume at 11 and all cylinders firing, it’s all the more disappointing when the ending falls flat on its face. There is no resolution, which begs the question – why? – and nearly discredits the ninety minutes of torture just endured. Yes, this movie plants itself firmly in reality, and sometimes real life is just like that. Unbelievable, senseless violence is often inflicted on the oblivious with justice never served, but it’s hard to make peace with a film that builds itself up to what feels like a non-ending. For me, it simply didn’t work, and left me with the feeling that it never figured out how to reconcile its own actions.

All things considered and despite its flaws, Secuestrados is a tight, beautifully crafted kick in the ass, worth a one-time watch at your most masochistic

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About Kara_E

Kara is a Senior Office Assistant for the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University. A past English major and lifetime writer, she has also served both as an actress and behind-the-scenes assistant for several projects with our friends at Clockwerk Pictures. Kara lives with her husband in Bloomington, Indiana. In her spare time, she is a freelance editor/proofreader for international students at Indiana University, and serves as an organizer of the Dark Carnival Film Festival (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com).

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