NOVEMBER 29, 2011
The home invasion genre doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to plotting; even the slasher film has more “think outside the box” potential. They all have their own touches, of course, but if you say “that movie where the people are terrorized in their own home by a couple of dudes in masks”, you’ve just described like 90% of the genre. You gotta add the specifics to be more clear – so if someone said the above and added “and the entire movie unfolds in about 15 or 16 long shot takes”, then you know they’re referring to Kidnapped (Spanish: Secuestrados).
And for the most part, that’s the best thing about the film, which is almost depressingly light on story and not even particularly scary. Filmed normally, this might be one of the weakest in the genre, as the robbers are merely after money (no plot twists whatsoever here), the complications are as cliché as they come (the boyfriend comes over! A cop comes snooping around!), and no one on either side of the equation is particularly interesting. One of the robbers is strangely calm, almost coming off as an intellectual of sorts, but this character tic is just that – it doesn’t amount to anything or have any bearing on the “story”.
It’s also TOO damn grim – the movie actually closes (SPOILER!) on a shot of one of the family members being repeatedly stabbed in the chest. Even when everyone dies there’s usually some sort of “epilogue” to let the audience decompress a bit, but this literally ends on one of the most upsetting moments in the entire film. There’s also an unnecessary rape scene, as if the movie wasn’t unpleasant enough in its third act.
But on a technical level, it’s damn impressive. Again, the entire movie unfolds in long takes; I almost tried counting them but realized I’d be focusing on the wrong thing – there are less than 20 I think though. This isn’t an easy thing to do in ANY genre, but it’s even more laudable in a violent thriller of this nature, where things (and faces) are smashed up and everyone needs to be in their exact right spots for things to go smoothly. A mistake could take quite a while to reset for a second take, and if said mistake occurred at the end of a complicated 6-7 minute shot… I wouldn’t want to be the guy who fucked it up, that’s for damn sure.
This also results in some terrific performances, particularly the two female characters who (sigh) are terrorized the most (the dad barely gets a scratch on him over the course of the movie). Without the constant cutting (and what I assume was an in sequence shooting schedule), their growing panic and breakdowns come across far more believable than you usually see in these sort of things. The dad is also pretty good, though I had to wonder if (anti-spoiler?) we’re supposed to suspect he might be in some way involved? He seems oddly calm at a few key points, and I was unsure if it was just an actor issue or if they were trying to trick the audience somehow. Director Miguel Angel Vivas does pull off one misdirect quite well, so it’s not too much of a stretch to assume he might have been trying it here.
It’s a damn shame that Netflix Instant betrays those performances by only offering the dub track, however. I know I usually prefer the dubs since subtitling is often so poorly done, but in this case I think I would have much preferred the original language, especially since most of the dialogue was incidental anyway. The dub actors had the complete wrong tone of voice in their line readings more often than not; what was obviously harmless, almost silly bickering about a knick-knack between the two adults was dubbed as if it was a serious matter. There were also a number of awkward translations that, even if retained in the subtitles, would have at least SOUNDED right. The IFC DVD release has the original language from what I understand, so why Instant is only offering a dub is beyond me. Oh well, it’s just another thing for me to use as ammo whenever some schmuck tries to convince me that this service is superior to physical media.
Having largely tired of unpleasant movies such as this, I assume those who are still “excited” (for lack of a better word) at the idea of spending 85 minutes watching folks suffer (mentally or physically) will enjoy it even more than I did. By no means is it a bad film, and I can’t even really fault its story when Vivas (and co-writer Javier Garcia clearly wasn’t interested in a twisty narrative. Hell, if you apply this same sort of approach to a genre I’m still enthusiastic about it’d be one of my favorites of the year. A solid film I never want to watch again.
What say you?