Monday, May 14, 2012

Kidnapped (2010)

"A new genre classic."  Not exactly, but it is a solid home-invasion flick that made me jump several times (no easy feat after years and years of horror movies) and kept me on edge until the end credits reminded me to breathe.  I admit up-front that there isn't a genre out there that startles me more than home-invasion.  Films in this vein really provoke me, and I can't help but think about what I would do in such a situation.  By the end of a film like this I stay up half the night coming up with ways I could've stopped all the devastation before it started--which inevitably leads down the path of paranoia.  Kidnapped is definitely a film that sticks with you, even if it isn't "a new genre classic."

If you're planning to give this film a proper viewing, I suggest omitting the convenience of Netflix Instant and procuring the DVD with the original audio.  for whatever reason, you can't change the audio option on Instant (ten minutes into the film, I attempted to change the audio on iPad, Wii, and Firefox on PC; but it would only let me choose English).  This makes for a jarring experience, as, with a movie like this, English-speaking voice actors sitting in a recording booth cannot come close to achieving the level of drama needed to compliment the situation on the screen.  When a character is supposed to sound frightened it comes out like cheesy stage-acting.  Normally I would abandon the movie until I could watch it with the original audio, but I was already hooked.  I needed to watch it.  Plus, I like to think of myself as a mature enough viewer to look past dubbing, which proved true.

There is nothing new in the film.  Usually, when something is heralded as a classic, that means that it offers something pioneering that will endure.  It's too early to know whether it will endure, but as for being pioneering, or offering something new to the home-invasion genre, the only observation I can offer is that it made use of the split-screen technique, which reminded me of Brian De Palma's choice in Carrie.  Unlike Carrie, however, the split-screen, at times, gives us a view of the father, who has been separated from the familial triad, and the goings on back at the home--that is, we get a split-screen of two different settings and tones.  This I liked, not only for the nice juxtaposition of perspectives (the father has no clue of the calamity taking place at home); but also for the time it was able to shave off of the film's duration.  What can I say?  Eighty to ninety minutes, after years of watching horror movies, has become a sort of immutable threshold.  When the split-screen is used within the same setting--even if separate rooms--I didn't care for it as much.  In fact, I thought it would've been better to have left it in the perspective of the captives (what you can't see is always more frightening).

Then the movie just becomes cruel, unforgiving, and ultimately, nihilistic.   As usual, one of the captors is unstable and violent and one is the nice, friendly criminal (the misanthrope and the humanist).  These two begin to clash, and thus begins a microcosm of good versus evil within the film's larger plots, themselves a mix of class conflict and good-versus-evil.  The film offers flickers of hope, the most dramatic of which occurs when an extended sequence of split-screen literally joins characters together.  But then the film becomes cold, pernicious, sharply unsettling.  You know something is going to happen.  The fate of one of the captors is uncertain, leaving the viewer on edge.  And, sure enough, the captor returns for the final scene.  This is where the film becomes absurd, a path I expected from time to time throughout the movie, but not in this way.  And it's apparent that the film is setup to shock audiences into remembering its violent bent toward chaos.  Again, though, this final statement is not something new, even if the deaths of all those involved do follow the guidelines.

I recommend Kidnapped only for those who genuinely enjoy and understand horror movies; not the laywatcher who is roused by the popularity and taboo of horror culture.  If you simply crave violence in your movies I'd try taking a hit of something more potent--like, say, Dream Home.  Regardless of your tastes, though, I do think it's the type of movie you have to be in the right mood to "enjoy."  Don't judge by the reviews (one should never read reviews before watching the movie without pretenses), and don't watch with the English dubbing if you can help it.  If you enjoy films like Funny Games, The Strangers, Eden Lake, and Them (Ils), you'll find something to love here.

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