Monday, January 9, 2012

Movie Review: Kidnapped (2010)

Home invasions are probably some of the worst crimes committed against a person. Your home is your safe place, where you put your guard down and think nothing bad can touch you. So when evil invades this sanctuary, it is all the more horrific and terrifying - and it can also make for a damn fine horror film.

Kidnapped is about a family who, on the very day that they move into a new house, are held prisoner by three masked men. Unexpected guests often hinder the intruders' plan, along with the family's determination to fight back and protect each other.

Though variations of this scenario have been done a dozen times in other movies and TV shows, I realized fairly early on that Kidnapped was trying to do something different. That horrific opening scene scared the ever-loving shit out of me - as did several other well crafted moments throughout the movie - but it was the next scene that showed the film's use of a unique technique. The whole movie consists of only 12 long, unedited takes, something I have not seen since Alfred Hitchcock's Rope from 1948. When I realized that this is what they were doing, I thought it would make the movie too gimmicky, or too artsy-fartsy, but it was beautifully executed.

So why then did the filmmakers choose to shoot the movie this way? It must have been incredibly difficult to achieve, not to mention time-consuming. I think it was for the simple reason of making the movie more realistic and believable, and for that old stand-by of putting the viewer right there in the situation with the characters, making it impossible to turn away for even a second. In fact, the lack of real character development, save for the first part of the film before the intruders appear, almost doesn't matter that much because this more of a situational film. It strives to show the horror and atrocities that can have been committed in these types of crimes and I think it does a wonderful job at that.

For the first part of Kidnapped, the violence against the three victims is relatively tame, but it slowly escalates over the short period of time the film runs. When Isa's boyfriend and a security guard show up, the intruders are forced to do extreme things to keep the plan going, and the family in turn is forced to fight back even harder. The filmmakers get down and dirty with the characters' emotional turmoil, but they also keep the gorehounds happy with an insane head-bashing, an in-your-face throat slashing, and shootings and stabbings, not to mention a quite graphic sexual assault.

Many will probably be put off by the very brutal and surprising ending, but I loved it. No, it's not what the audience wants to happen and maybe the filmmakers chose to do it simply for the shock value. It works, though, and those last few minutes turn out to be the the most brutal and so much more engrossing than the whole rest of the movie. You realize at the end that the opening scene was there to set you up with a false sense of security and you hate it and love it at the same time.

Usually I try to be an equal opportunity reviewer and find faults even with the movies I love, but there wasn't anything here that really bothered me. Kidnapped was thrilling and engaging from start to finish and an excellent entry to the new "home invasion horror" subgenre.

Sidenote: Okay, I take back the previous about not liking anything in Kidnapped. There was one thing I hated and it wasn't the movie's fault at all. Netflix only had the dubbed version! Gah! How annoying! I don't see how anyone can find reading subtitles more irritating than a person's mouth not matching up with what they're saying. So distracting.


  1. I too watched the Netflix dubbed version. Pretty terrible voice acting, especially from the mother. Although I didn't like the movie itself either.

  2. Thanks for warning my about the dubbed version. I'll have to look elsewhere for the DVD.

  3. Amazing review, Michele

    I fuckin' ADORE Kidnapped! It shocked me to the core, especially the breathtaking opening and the uber-brutal ending. What a movie!

  4. so many reviewers who'd seen this film. Now I'm envious again.