Being a rich man has it’s advantages. People extend you credit as a courtesy, not because they know they’ll eventually be able to sell your organs for scrap. When charities call you on the phone, you get to turn them down not because you’re poor, but because you’re a dick bag. You get to move into nice modern houses with lots of light and keep stainless steel butt plugs lying around the living room masquerading as art/impromptu headmashers (more on that in a moment). But, with the highs come the lows. Sometimes three men in leather jackets and balaclavas break into your airy modern home and terrorize you and your family. If this sounds like your life then congratulations, you are the one percent. The plebes have come to take your shit.
Such is the fate of the family in Kidnapped, a home invasion film directed by Miguel Angel Vivas, who has a lot of vowels in his name and has managed to make a movie that splits the difference between Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Trespass, starring Nicholas Cage’s severed head.
Nicole Kidman’s is also a talented puppeteer.
This is not a philosophically sophisticated film. It may be an allegory about uppercrust paranoia, or it might not be, but it gets under your skin nonetheless. We watch three people, I’ll call them Rich Man, Rich Wife, and Rich Daughter, brutalized in very long takes over the course of the worst night of their lives. It operates as a gut punch, not a head trip, and its verite qualities add a veneer of realism that can be very difficult to watch at times.
The family is getting ready for dinner. And then they aren’t. Three men in masks break in and shit gets real. It operates on a level of such intensity that you might walk away thinking you’ve just accidentally watched snuff. It’s brutal, especially in the final ten minutes.
It is a credit to Spanish and Spanish-language horror that it is generally impossible to watch ironically. We owe Guillermo Del Torro our thanks, he took a genre that has all but died in America and gave it a fertile home in the magical countries where J’s are pronounced like H’s. Vivas does this new tradition proud and employs a number of cinematic tricks like wildly canted angles and cleverly deployed split screen to put us in the moment. As I said before, we are treated to a lot of very long takes, requiring a lot of editorial decisions to be made in the frame while the camera (always handheld) is whirling around like a mongoose (whoever blocked all this is a genius). As such, we are led to believe that we have witnessed an execution that is both onscreen and offscreen at the same time… which is neat.
Kidnapped is also not without a sense of humor. In one standout scene, Rich Wife and Rich Daughter sit bound and gagged on a couch while one of the thieves parks himself between them, snorting coke, eating cheese, and watching TV–It’s the most European thing I’ve seen since I was in Europe, blackly hysterical category.
Beer Two/Special Ring in Hell for Movie Executives
This one goes to the idiots at Netflix streaming, or possibly the distribution company, who decided that this film needed to be dubbed. Remember that stainless steel butt plug I mentioned earlier, person who made the dubbing decision?
That’s the one.
Now imagine it’s white… hot and crammed inside you.
The audience is treated to a supposedly Albanian man speaking suspiciously unaccented American English instead of the charming lisps and rapid fire trills that the actors on screen originally provided. I haven’t said much about performances, and the dubbing is the reason. What might have been nuanced with subtitles is rendered ridiculous by the fact that everyone sounds like they grew up in St. Louis and tried to lose the whine during their years at NYU. In other words, order it on DVD, where you at least have a choice about whether or not you’ll be treated like a dumbass for being American.
Best watched on an empty stomach, with subtitles, in a house that no one will ever want to break into.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a deep drink of Rex Goliath: every time someone’s head is smashed, caved in, or otherwise obliterated.
Take a Drink: every time the dubbing voice actresses fail to scream with the sort emotion we’d expect based on what’s happening onscreen.
Take a Drink: if you find yourself avoiding windows at night because you can’t see out of them when the light is on and hey that’s really freaking you out.