Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Glen Scantlebury, Lucy Phillips
Writer: Glen Scantlebury, Lucy Phillips
Producer: John Hamilton, Lucy Phillips, Glen Scantlebury
Stars: Trevor Morgan, Tessa Ferrer, Ross Thomas, Jelly Howie, Aidan Park, Vivan Dugre, Doug Haley, Emily Graham-Handley, May Turnure
Four kidnapped couples struggle to survive while unraveling the mystery of their captors’ identities and motives.
What makes “Abducted” intriguing as held hostage horror and as a medical experiment thriller is the breadcrumb trail that judiciously doles out teases of tension with the jigsaw pieces slowly given to its characters. Like “The Strangers” staging a home invasion, the captors in “Abducted” never speak and never offer a motive for their actions. That mystery is left for the abductees to uncover and for the audience to interpret.
Dave and Jessica are a young and in love vacationing couple enjoying a picnic in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park that is suddenly interrupted by poison darts to their backs. They then wake as captives in a cold, dark room. But there is no saw or a tape recorder waiting on the floor for them. The couple instead discovers that their captors are strange men in gas masks and containment suits. Never speaking, the only noise the abductors make is a Predator-like animal breathing, and their interest is in biological experiments, not in delivering answers.
Over the course of their imprisonment, Dave and Jessica meet a trio of couples in the same situation. Collectively, they become known as the Griffith Park 8. Since her father is a military general in Afghanistan, Jessica and Dave come to believe that they have been kidnapped by the Taliban. Teens Justin and Summer wonder if their parents staged a boot camp intervention or if they are being held for ransom because of Justin’s Hollywood family. Buzz and Tiffany think they are part of a covert government experiment. Meanwhile, Elliot and Maria are certain that they have all been abducted by aliens.
The thriller unfolds as the captives resist their captors, frantically search for answers, and fight to hold on to their depleting sanity while the days held prisoner turn into weeks and odd bodily scars begin multiplying. “Abducted” has a game plan in mind for unleashing suspense, and it is mostly successful in capturing the mood it sets out to create.
“Abducted” boasts an impressive cast of young talent, some of whom are familiar faces in genre entertainment. Memorable for his turn as misguided sociopath Renfield in the 2011 film “Vampire” (review here), Trevor Morgan leads the way as Dave. “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Tessa Ferrer is at his side as Jessica. Natural banter establishes an honest rapport between themselves as well as with the audience. There is a smartness to their personalities that maintains a heroic light in spite of their occasionally annoying flaws.
The rest of the cast delivers on a similar level. Other performers would be better suited to ranting about alien abductions while wearing tinfoil hats, but Aidan Park has an authentic presence that lends his conspiracy theorist dialogue a frightening amount of credibility. These are clearly actors cast for ability alone, and they make a deliberately slow tempo film feel tightly focused and breezy.
“Abducted” does necessitate a commitment not only of patience, but also of a willingness to invest in the outcome. The story is about isolated couples held hostage for days on end without any hope of rescue or of learning more about the details of their confinement. By nature, depiction of their prison-like conditions requires multiple scenes of languishing in a barren cell. It is a necessary evil of storytelling needs conflicting with entertainment goals as some viewers are liable to feel that answers are not coming fast enough to be satisfying. Admittedly, watching prisoners crouch in fetal positions for extended periods of time can be uneventful if the emotional connection is absent.
At the same time, “Abducted” has an underlying trust pulsing through the script that revelations about what is really happening are coming. It will not be a simple road to make it there, but it will be suspenseful. The maddening atmosphere of a mind unraveling due to conditions without explanation is created expertly. Mood is thick, skin does crawl, and an engaged mind will be wrapped in the events onscreen. However, such as the movie finally does turn on the light at the end of the tunnel, the final moments can be a letdown for some. Anyone unable to buy into the premise or care about its conclusion will write the film off as plodding and dull. And while the merit of the payoff is up for debate, the fact remains that “Abducted” is oozing with compelling takes on themes of kidnapping and medical experimentation fit snugly inside a smartly crafted production.
Review Score: 70