I hate horror movies. Their sole purpose is to scare people. With humans crawling up walls and demons parading around the screen, horror movies often seem like an unrealistic expression of human fear. Perhaps this is why I don’t connect with them. I have yet to see a movie such as “Paranormal Activity” or “House At the End of the Street”. Why? They simply don’t grab my attention.
A particular movie (not a horror movie) which did give me a fright. in the way I believe movies are intended to do, was the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson. In the movie, Liam Neeson plays a father, who is a retired CIA agent. His daughter, a college-aged girl, goes on a fancy, lengthy vacation to Europe, starting off in Paris. In Paris, Liam Neeson’s daughter gets kidnapped and is sold into an expansive human trafficking system that focuses on the sale of “virgin” women. Over the course of the movie, Liam Neeson’s main goal is to retrieve his daughter from the human trafficking system. The movie, I will say now, for those who have not seen it, does have a happy ending, as Liam Neeson successfully gets his daughter back.
The primary reason the movie “Taken” was absorbing and thrilling for me was its realistic nature provides a more immediate, genuine sense of fear in my brain than stereotypical horror movies do. Unlike many horror movies, which focus on the concept of some arbitrary demonic power or evil spirit (such as in “House At the End of the Street“), “Taken” articulates a much more secular evil – the evil of treating human beings as objects or inferior creatures. Kidnapping and sex trafficking are very real dangers present in today’s world. Every year, scores of women, often tourists, are snatched from their hotels and sold into the human trafficking system as sex objects. Taken from a report by unglobalcompact.org, “95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking (based on data from selected European countries)7• …43% of victims are used forforced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls)8 (7 The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Stolen smiles: a summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe (London, 2006). 8 International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet (2007)
“Taken” created many real-life connections in my brain: the possibility of situations similar to those in the movie happening in real life is extremely frightening and scary for me. Unlike horror movies, I simply cannot dismiss the movie “Taken” as absurd and illogical. Although I do admit the superb combat abilities of Liam Neeson against the terrorists who kidnapped his daughter (and the eventual success of rescuing his daughter) are somewhat romanticized, the movie does not rely on an flimsy premise ( a general demonic power or evil demon) or on context (such as how many horror movies rely on the atmosphere of Halloween-time for profits). To conclude, the movie “Taken” presents the secular evil of the human trafficking system in Europe as a realistic, crystal-clear danger. This is why the movie is so thrilling and captivating for me.
(P.S: I’m extremely anxious for “Taken 2”!)