Brad stands in his kitchen, drinking his way through a whole bottle of wine and making dinner. In the course of cutting some vegetables he hurts himself (probably due to drinking a whole bottle of wine), breaks a dish and says a few choice words. He figures life sucks and shit happens. But moments later there’s a knock at the door. It’s the police. Apparently an anonymous tipster called in a domestic disturbance after hearing all the cussing and breaking porcelain. But as the police officer on the scene walks through the house and investigates, Brad’s answers become more and more cagey, and it becomes clear that things are not as they seem.
Taken In is a 2020 American 15-minute short film directed by Travis Guba. Guba is primarily an actor, having had a variety of small roles in various films and television shows like The Dark Knight, Law and Order: SVU and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia starting in 2003. Taken In seems to be his own personal project, as it appears to be his first (credited) foray into not only directing, but writing, editing and producing as well. Thankfully, he seems to have a talent for it, because as far as first films go, this one is pretty solid.
As far as plots for short stories go, this is an incredibly well put together mystery thriller. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that something is off about our drunken Wine Man, Brad, and that it may not all be related to him consuming an entire bottle of wine by himself. He doesn’t want Officer Carter to come in, but then agrees. He says he’s making dinner for himself, but the table is set for two. He tells her the crash was a plate breaking, but gets defensive when she asks to see it. But while the explanations and answers he gives her all seem logical or can be easily explained away, they also always feel a little off and it’s no wonder that the officer seems suspicious of him. Yet at the same time, it’s obvious that something is also suspicious about Officer Carter. Even hazy-brained Brad notices something is odd about her suspiciously swift arrival. How could she have gotten a call for a disturbance and arrived at his house mere seconds after he cut himself and broke a plate. Clearly, something is amiss, and the film does a bang-up job of keeping the viewer guessing what that thing might be, right up until the end.
The acting on display is also pretty impressive. The names Ben Sharples and Raquel Bell won’t necessarily ring any bells in anyone’s mind, but both have been doing TV and film work since 2000 and 2006, respectively, and both of them do an excellent job in each of their roles. Both their expressions and timing were spot on, and each of them were equally earnest and suspicious enough to make the thriller work. In short, they sold it and I hope to see more of them in the future.
My only complaint about the film was the conversion at the end regarding the cat. I mean, I get it, when Brad goes into the long spiel about the cat he’s not actually talking about the cat. The cat is just a metaphor for what’s really going on. But after all the wonderfully intense build-up bringing us to that point, the whole cat-metaphor thing felt a little…. Hamfisted, I guess? Don’t get me wrong, it does work and it fits and it explains away the short’s plot and the ending. But the film does go through a bit of a tonal difference at that point and I’m still not 100% sure if I like it or if it should have been reworked to better fit in with the rest of the story.
But really, that last point is just me nit-picking, because overall Taken In is really an excellent little production. It looks good, it sounds good, it’s well acted and well paced, and the story remains engaging throughout. I was very impressed by this short 15-minute diversion, and I hope Travis Guba and company come back to do more. If you enjoy mysteries or thrillers, then you should definitely give it a watch. It didn’t win Best Thriller at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival for nothing.
Taken In is available to stream on Amazon Prime.