2010 Fantastic Fest. Chalk it up to scheduling issues on my part: too many dope films and not enough time in the day or night to see 'em all. I regrettably chose something else over Kidnapped without realizing at the time what I was doing. Then I began to hear the percolating buzz from audience members post-screening, amped way beyond the hysteria over secret film #1 I Saw The Devil or practically anything else at the fest. Then came the awards ceremony and Vivas walked away with a best director award AND best picture for Kidnapped, and I was like "there is something big here". I recently blogged about the 10 most disturbing films I've seen, a list tipped heavily in the realm of Fantastic Fest, and in retrospect Kidnapped totally would be on that list. Not as an honorable mention but one of the ten (I'm not sure the placement, but it's a shocker). I haven't seen Vivas' debut feature-length Reflections (from nearly 10 years ago) and Kidnapped is only his second feature. But hell, he's achieved something great here. If you gauge great movies on an experience that lingers with you long afterward, the images burned into your retinas, where you've got to talk it out with a loved one to make sense of it — that's all here. But Kidnapped doesn't deliquesce so easily, even talking about it, getting drunk, watching some lighthearted flick like Finding Nemo won't totally wipe it from your consciousness. When I write that this is a bone-deep disturbing film, as visceral a home-invasion nightmare as I've ever seen — and considering my 10 shocking films list — you had best believe it.
Unease begins the experience. A close-up of a bloodied plastic bag wrapped haphazardly over a besuited man's head. He lies in the grass, the camera facing him, and despite the insistent buzzing of flies we see the man's shoulders rising and falling, ever so slightly. It's not a mistake of the actor: this guy's alive. Vivas lets us think about the consequences of an apparently badly beaten man with a bag wrapped around his head REMAINING alive for about thirty seconds, when he sharply gasps — jump scene! — begins furiously breathing, rouses himself and, rising shakily to his feet, ambles through a wood and into traffic. A driver comes to his aid, pulling the bag from his head, and the man barks for a phone and stammers the number. Phone to his ear, he gets his daughter on the other line and orders her in hurried breaths to not open the door for anyone, stay in the house. Her monotone response — we can totally picture it, what's going on at home — is "they're already inside. They shot mom." Annnnnd title screen: Secuestrados. We never see that family again.