Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Miguel Angel Vivas

Stars: Fernando Cayo, Dritan Biba, Ana Wagener, Manuela Velles.

Some of the best horror films seem to be emerging from Spain at the moment. Kidnapped is a taut and efficiently brutal thriller that will certainly unsettle many in the audience. The film draws upon real events as a starting point. Each year in Europe there are some 300,000 home invasions, many of them violent.

This brutal but engrossing new thriller from Spanish filmmaker Miguel Angel Vivas (the 2002 crime thriller Reflections) depicts one such home invasion with unflinching authenticity. It makes films like Bryan Bertino’s unnerving thriller The Strangers. Rec, David Fincher’s Panic Room, or Michael Haneke’s bleak Funny Games seem tame by comparison!

Jaime (Fernando Cayo) and his family have just moved into their new house in a gated community on the outskirts of Madrid. There are already tensions within the family due to the stress of the move. But on their first night in their new home three masked men burst into the house and take them hostage. The invaders systematically terrorise the family. Then the coolly brutal leader of the gang (Dritan Biba) takes Jaime to an ATM machine to withdraw as much money as he can. Meanwhile, back at home rape, psychological torture and escalating violence ensue. Eventually Jaime’s wife Marta (Ana Wagener) and daughter Isabel (Manuela Vellés) slowly begin to fight back against their tormentors.

The fact that the invaders remain anonymous is meant to increase the sense of tension and suspense, and allows the audience to identify more with the captive family. The action plays out in real time and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Vivas makes the audience feel as trapped as the family here, and at times the film is quite claustrophobic.

He effectively uses handheld cameras, long takes, and split screen sequences to bring a sense of urgency to the material. Kidnapped stamps this exciting young director as one to watch! Pedro J. Marquez’s handheld camera work is often exciting and brings a sense of immediacy to the material.

Vivas also deftly undercuts our expectations, as he takes the film in unexpected directions. At a brisk 70 minutes, Kidnapped (aka Secuestrados or Hostages) is also very tense, ruthlessly efficient, violent, and quite brutal and graphic at times. But whereas Haneke kept the violence offscreen, Vivas revels in the gratuitous brutality and violence of the situation.

This is definitely not a film for the faint hearted! Its finale is nasty and quite unexpected, and may leave some in the audience feeling a little cheated.




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