Kidnapped: A Purer Kind of Torture Porn 

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Kidnapped
Directed by Miguel Angel Vivas

There's virtuosity to admire and gratuitous violence to abhor in Kidnapped, a punishing home-invasion thriller from Spain. The story begins with a well-off Madrid family that recently moved to a new house in a gated community. They squabble lovingly: mom (Ana Wagener) wants teenage daughter (Manuela Velles) to spend their first night at home with her parents; dad (The Orphanage's Fernando Cayo) thinks she should be allowed to see her friends. If not particularly original, the family feels real; if not exactly relatable, at least identifiable, the key to any such horror movie, whose success depends upon earning the audience's sympathy. Well, get ready for uncalled for causes for sympathy: as apparent cosmic punishment for mom's refusal to let her little girl grow up, the family's house, that elemental representation of safety, is soon violated by invading Eastern Europeans, who come smashing in like Kool-Aid men, without warning, a true-to-life surprise. Mom should have let her daughter go out! While dad is taken to empty the family's bank accounts at an ATM, the women remain at the house with the other two captors, one of whom has a short temper, a few grams of cocaine, and a propensity for sexual assault.

Director Vivas crafts some startling imagery—like the plastic bag-wrapped head, gasping for air, that opens the film—but his real skill is long takes; the 90-minute Kidnapped is made up of roughly 10 shots, several of which impressively involve car accidents and effects-requiring murders. Winding through the house, they drop and pick-up new characters, making you feel like an onlooker in one of those theater productions that occupy a whole building. Such mobility proves weirdly liberating, though, and strips a lot of the urgency, leaving us to stew in the demeaning spectatorship of its mean, grim and gruesome character abuse, which escalates from beatings and strangulation to rape. There are a few exceptions, whenever the film tosses a wrench into its own works, upending its established aesthetic: what if a boyfriend or the police suddenly arrived? What if a few characters locked themselves in a room, while the kidnappers had a hostage on the other side of the wall? (Vivas nicely uses split screens twice.) Kidnapped can be breathtaking, but it can also be like a purer kind of torture porn—one that revels not in gore, but in the unduly cruel mistreatment of its characters.

Opens June 17 at the reRun Gastropub Theater

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