‘I call it love.’
There must have been something in the water in the early 70s, because hot on the heels of Last House on the Left and Wrong Way we have another film in which young girls are abducted by some weirdos and subjected to sexual torture. Abducted falls somewhere in-between the two. It’s not the genre classic that Last House is, but there’s a lot more going on than in the filthy fumbling of Wrong Way, that’s for sure.
The film gets underway with shots of creepy dolls, and we are treated to the musical, er, stylings of Josef Powell, who’s horribly off-key singing sets the tone for a strange, strange movie. Frank and Johnny are brothers who live under the tyrannical rule of their domineering mother. Johnny is a grown man with the mind of a child, and the brothers kidnap young girls to be Johnny’s playthings. And that is about all there is to the plot. A girl is kidnapped, plays a game with Johnny, tries to escape and gets killed. Repeat with a slight twist. The End.
I’m unsure if watching this straight after Wrong Way has desensitized me or not, but Abducted is definitely not as exploitive as that movie. Sure, the female cast all get naked when Johnny plays ‘doctor’ with them, but it’s handled as tastefully as it can be in a movie that is also known as Schoolgirls in Chains.
What truly sets it apart from Wrong Way is the number of offbeat choices that director Jones makes. There’s an escape attempt next to a moving train that is surprisingly thrilling, and minutes later an artful long shot of a dead body as the train goes past. The camera holds the shot for a long time, which reminds me of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses thirty years later, which has a similar plot to this film. Another moment that crops up in both films is the unexpected appearance of someone in the back of a car, which happens twice in this film, the second time being a particularly effective shock moment.
There’s also a bizarre bit where a woman knocks down a strange grey-skinned man, only to be kidnapped by the brothers. And oh my, the boys’ mother in the flashbacks is a wonderful character straight out of a John Waters movie. After revealing to Frank’s fianceé that she sleeps with her son, she says, ‘Come back anytime, we’ll let you watch!’.
It’s not all good though. I ended up absolutely infuriated with the women in the dungeon. Surely the three of them could easily overpower Johnny and escape? Or at the end, when Johnny is out cold and Frank is chasing one of the women and the door to the dungeon is wide open and unguarded, why doesn’t Ginger or Stevie try to escape?
But like the circle of life, we come back to the music. It’s one of the worst scores in any Nasty, and we all know how important music can be to a horror film. There’s a lot of easy listening trumpets at the start, and during the first chase scene, the score consists of several people chanting ‘RUN’, getting higher and higher pitched until your ears are begging for mercy. Later there’s a sexy saxophone solo over a rape scene for crying out loud, but the worst music comes during the scenes of Johnny playing doctor. It should be creepy and disturbing, with him making the girls strip naked and feeling them up before injecting them with a syringe to the butt. But it’s rendered comical by the renditions of Three Blind Mice and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that play in the background.
These sort of choices undermine the movie but don’t derail it, making Abducted a surprising little gem right up to the strangely moving final shot. And that is a sentence I did not expect to write!