Director: Miguel Angel Vivas
Cast: Fernando Cayo, Ana Wagener, Manuela Velles, Guillermo Barrientos
Fright Meter Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress
Spending their first night in their new home in a wealthy, gated community, a family is terrorized by three masked home invaders who demand money.
Home invasion films have enjoyed a certain popularity as a viable sub-genre to the slasher/horror genre. Films like Straw Dogs, Funny Games, Ils, Inside, The Strangers all bring viewers face to face with a real and seemingly increasing epidemic; criminals are no longer waiting until their victims are away to enter their homes. Kidnapped follows the formula established by its genre predecessors faithfully, but ultimately is a much more stylish and visceral film. The exposition of the film is prefaced by a disturbing and frenzied sequence revealing a man who has been bound and has had a plastic bag tied around his head struggling to seek help. It’s an attention grabbing opening scene that perfectly sets the tone for the remainder of the film. Abruptly, the opening scene fades into introducing the viewer to an average upper middle class family consisting of well-meaning mother and father and typical, self-absorbed teenage daughter, Isa. Tension exists because the family is just moving into a new home and movers are scurrying in and out of the house. Additionally, mother wants nothing more than to enjoy a family dinner in the new house. Isa, however, has plans with her friend that her father completely supports her following through with. As night falls and the movers are long gone, the argument between the family persists; quite suddenly the situation is shattered as three masked men violently enter the home, taking the family hostage and demanding their valuables. From this point, the film becomes a suspense filled roller coaster ride that hooks the viewer and refuses to let go.
Director Vivas masterfully handles the direction, allowing the camera to be a voyeur; the action on screen and the character’s reactions to what is going is utterly and painfully realistic. The direction is also steeped with enough style and visual flare to set it apart from other recent genre entries. During one of the film’s most suspenseful sequence, the screen splits and the viewer is allowed to watch the grueling action unfold from various perspectives. Not since De Palma’s prom scene in Carrie has the split screen been utilized so effectively. Moreover, the performances are excellent across the board, adding the realism of the film. Manuela Velles is particularly spectacular as the teenage daughter whose decent from self-centered teenager to emotionally and physically ruined victim is astonishing to witness. However, despite the film maintaining a taut sense of suspense and dread and being an exemplary entry into the home invasion genre, there will be and has been controversy over the film’s gloomy and unconventional ending. Simply put, it is an ending that some will love and some will loathe. To discuss anymore would a spoiler, but love it or hate it, it does pack a huge punch and will leave you breathless.
Ultimately, because of the ballsy ending, Kidnapped achieves the difficult and rare feat of sticking with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. And despite some minor flaws, such as questionable actions by a few of the characters and an unsatisfactory tie back to the opening scene, Kidnapped is one of the best home invasion films and a thoroughly chilling, affecting viewing experience.
Fright Meter Grade: