Jason Augustowski makes his directorial debut with Abducted. The micro-budgeted thriller, written by David Sawyer, follows friends Lexi (Megan Sawyer) and Steph (Jocelyn Long) as they feel the pressure of being a teenager. Their parents are always on their case about grades and given that Lexi’s sister Ashley (Katie Sawyer) gets straight As it is incredibly frustrating. The boys the girls are dating, Carter (Finn Griffiths) and Key (Jet Hardy), don’t help matters as their parents see them as distractions or wayward themselves.
Strangely, friends of theirs, including Maryam (Divya Mukara), disappear for a few days, presumable out sick. But what’s odd is that once they come back, they are different somehow. Making the events even creepier is a blonde boy with the yellow backpack (Cunin Ross) who speaks flatly and seems to be a harbinger of the disappearances. Is it just the pressures of doing well in school and conforming to family demands making these kids act odd? Or is there something or someone sinister changing them for some nefarious purpose?
It takes a while for Abducted to find its groove. Part of the reason is that it is not immediately clear that the abducted kids are being brought back altered to some degree. There’s not enough time devoted to the first few children out “sick” to fully understand that they are not the same. This makes things confusing for a little while. But once that difference is understood, the story and its themes readily fall into place.
“…a blonde boy with the yellow backpack…seems to be a harbinger of the disappearances.”
Sawyer’s screenplay allows its teen protagonists to feel and act like teenagers. They complain about this or that, and even if it’s not the biggest of deals, it feels big to them. In this regard, the writer hits the nail on the head. The film runs a little less than 80 minutes, and a good portion of that is dedicated to Lexi, Carter, Steph, and Finn just living. The idea that so much pressure is put on people who aren’t yet adults and are still treated like kids but expected to behave in certain ways carries through to the end. The unveiling of what’s actually happening is also quite intriguing. So while a lot of the dialogue feels improvised, the story beats and message work well.
Augustowski’s direction is mostly on point. Some of the editing feels choppy, especially during a band rehearsal, and some scenes go on too long. However, the filmmaker creates excellent tension and mystery-building, especially as the young leads piece together what’s happening. A sequence involving stabbing a pen into a hand is as shocking as it is telling the truth.
Abducted shows its low budget here and there in terms of audio quality and editing. But the director still intrigues, and the writer understands/remembers the pressures of growing up as a teen. While imperfect, this is a decent stepping stone for Sawyer and Augustowski.
For more information, visit the Abducted Film Freeway page.
"…allows its teen protagonists to feel and act like teenagers."