“Get rid of him, or your daughter dies”
The theme of home invasion has been a staple of the horror/thriller genre for many years. From Peckinpah’s classic Straw Dogs, mainstream big budget studio movies like Panic Room to Ils, a movie from The New French Extremity. The desecration of the home has provided an unsettling storyline which can easily gnaw at an audiences nerves. One of the latest entries in this genre is Secuestrados or Kidnapped to give it it’s English title. Quite simply this is a brutal, nihilistic masterpiece. One of the best thrillers I have seen in years & one I simply had to review here.
After a brief prologue where a man wakes, bloodied & battered & the side of a road with a plastic shopping bag over his head, the movie starts with a family moving into their new house. The family comprises of the husband & wife, Jaime & Marta & their 18yr old daughter Isa. Once the removal men have gone, Marta starts to prepare the families first meal in their new house & is arguing with Isa who wants to go out when one of the glass doors is shattered & three men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas burst in. The three family members are quickly rounded up & placed on the sofa. It soon becomes obvious that the intruders are all from eastern Europe as they speak in a language the family cannot understand. Eventually one of the intruders addresses them in Spanish & demands they place all their credit cards on the table & write down the pin numbers, he also demands their mobile phones. Jamie is then told he will accompany one of the men to a cashpoint where he will draw out the maximum allowed on each card. If he refuses his wife & daughter will be executed. Jamie agrees & the two men leave. As the night progresses events spiral out of control leading to a shocking & brutal climax.
This movie absolutely blew me away. From the first minute to the last seconds Secuestrados held me gripped as the story unfolded. Director Miguel Angel Vivas, who co-wrote the screenplay with Javier Garcia creates a brooding air of claustrophobia & sheer terror as the family find themselves increasingly helpless as the night progresses. The cast is superb, the three actors playing the family are excellent, with particular praise going to Manuela Velles who plays Isa. Her performance is stunning, she captures the terror & hysteria of her character perfectly, in a role it would have been easy to overplay & lose all believability. Fernando Cayo & Ana Wagener as Jaime & Marta manage to convey the rising terror & utter helplessness they find themselves in. The three intruders are well portrayed but Vivas wisely concentrates on the family. Driving home their peril & echoing that primal fear in everyone if their home is breached. The movie is relentless, neither the family or the audience is given any respite from the unfolding horror. Using only the interior of the house & the interior of the car for the entire movie, Vivas keeps the audience right in the heart of the ordeal. At times the movie employes a split screen so the viewer can see Jamie in the car at the same time as what is happening to his wife & daughter at home. Vivas uses this technique sparingly & when employed works incredibly well, highlighting the separation of the family unit & a distraught Jamie’s hopeless despair, wondering how his wife & daughter are. Everything about this movie is note perfect. Not once does it descend into any genre clichés. The family members behave just as any of us would & the intruders, while not the main focus of the film are nothing like the genre caricatures they could have been if the film had been handled by a lesser director. It must be pointed out that this movie pulls no punches, it is extremely brutal & savage. There are some very strong scenes of violence & sexual violence. This is not a film for the faint of heart. The violence is neither stylised or glamorized, it is ugly & shocking.
Secustrados is one of those movies that slips under the radar. If there was any justice it would be a huge box office hit. A wonderful brooding masterpiece, but don’t take my word for it, just see it, I promise you will not be disappointed.