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RELEASED: 2009, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY: Sean Byrne
PRODUCER: Michael Boughen
MUSIC: Ollie Olsen
Xavier Samuel as Brent
Robin McLeavy as Lola
Victoria Thaine as Holly
Richard Wilson as Jamie
Jessica McNamee as Mia
John Brumpton as Lola's father
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The Loved Ones begins with Brent driving along a country road with his father in the passenger seat. As the two men engage in banter, Brent accidentally crashes the car to avoid a pedestrian, and his father is killed.
The film then jumps forward six months, with Brent living at home with his bereaved and depressed mother. Haunted by guilt at believing himself to have been the cause of his father's death, Brent half-heartedly tries to join in ordinary teenage life with his girlfriend Holly and his male friend Jamie.
After school one day, Lola, another pupil, asks Brent if he will take her to the forthcoming prom, and she acts rather weirdly when he gently lets her down by telling her he is going to the event with Holly. Burning with envy, Lola spies on Brent having sex with Holly in her car, and the look on her (Lola's) face is one of 'hell hath no fury than....'
As an attempt to escape his depression, feelings of bereavment and despair, Brent often takes himself off with his dog to go rock-climbing....which he does later that day....and, he doesn't return home.
Brent wakes up in a strange house, trapped in a room with a very glamorously dressed Lola, while her doting father looks on, offering encouragement.
That sets the basic scene....and I strongly recommend you watch the rest for yourself to find out more.
Firstly, I must say that The Loved Ones is an Australian film. For the most part, I generally have a lot of respect for movies made 'down under' as apart from finding them mostly slick, unusual and very well-acted, the dialogue is always spoken very clearly yet without compromising on acting ability....and, The Loved Ones is no exception.
This isn't the first horror film that centres around a high school prom, but what the storyline leads into, certainly comes across as very original and I've never seen anything quite like it before.
The acting is truly A1 superb, especially that of Xavier Samuel as the cornered (and that word is putting it very mildly!) Brent, and Robin McLeavy as the weird, batty, creepy, way over the top young vampish Lola. Although his role is slightly more marginalised, I also loved John Brumpton's sleek portrayal of 'Daddy', Lola's guiding paternal light.
As far as the music is concerned, there is a fair bit of head-banging stuff, some of which is played at the school prom and some in Jamie's car as he tries to seduce the offish, almost goth-like Mia. I did find that part of the score a bit raucous (maybe I'm getting old?), but the incidental music written especially for the film is really good...unusual, slightly avant garde....truly matching up with the mood of whatever is happening on screen at any given time.
There's no doubt about it that The Loved Ones is a film which contains slasher-type violence to extreme levels, and I did find myself watching a couple of scenes through slitted eyes due to squeamishness, but it is very fair to say that I've seen just as severe episodes of grisly torture in other movies.
The Loved Ones is a fast-paced, edge-of-your seat production which throws up quite a few surprises along the way. Although I found myself edging down the "I've seen it all before" route at the beginning of the film when the story concentrates on the school prom setting, what it evolves into took me by delicious and utterly gory surprise.
I do strongly suspect that the idea of The Loved Ones and how the film presents as a whole has more than a generous and deliberate sprinkling of tongue in cheek, and despite the blood bath which occurs, I couldn't help raising a little smile here and there. I very much got the feeling that I was watching a David Lynch film, because the way it is put together and (once really getting underway) it taking the viewer down some pretty strange paths....not so much in the area of the storyline and setting, but the way it is put together and presented.
As I see it, The Loved Ones certainly isn't intended to be taken seriously, although the basis for the storyline shown at the beginning accurately conveys a mood of greyness and depression.....but, some people may find the scenes of violence and torture step into areas which could be extremely uncomfortable and/or distasteful to watch. As far as I'm concerned though, it's a very interesting, unusual and entertaining film that should be viewed from a certain place within the human psyche....a place of treating it exactly for what it is....a piece of entertainment, and no more.
My overall recommendation is, watch it if you have a strong constitution, an appreciation of strange humour and an admiration for excellent acting, production and direction techniques....plus, a thirst for all things offbeat and a taste for the unexpected.
At the time of writing, The Loved Ones can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.87 to £17.99
Used: from £3.02 to £17.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I'm going to start off by saying this film is hugely underrated. In fact, pretty much all of my friends have never heard of it, and I don't think i've ever come across it in my local Blockbuster or HMV. I absolutely love this, and find it such a shame that it isn't a more well known, popular film - it honestly deserves all the hype and awards that less brilliant films get - I think this is one of the best horror films i've ever seen. I've not seen many Australian horror films so I was unsure at first of what to expect. The only other Australian horror movie i've seen is Wolf Creek, which I also thought was a brilliant film and I thought it'd be hard to exceed, but to be honest, The Loved Onces is ten times better.
I first came across this film after getting home from my boyfriends house one night when it was quite late. I stuck the telly on for some background noise while I made a drink and this film was actually just starting on Film4, which ironically enough is where I first saw Wolf Creek. I decided to sit and watch it simply to unwind a bit and relax, and I didn't think it would be up to much. The first few minutes was pretty boring.. predictable, but then BAM! The drama starts. We are introduced to the main character, Brent, who is driving in the car with his Dad in the passenger seat. It is obvious that the two have a reasonably good father-son relationship, and Brent looks like any other normal teenager. I really don't want to spoil what happens in these first few minutes, but as the first few minutes of this film are a hugely important part of what happens, I think it is a neccesity to say or else my review won't make much sense - and if you don't see the beginning of the film, then you will struggle to get the jist of what's going on and why Brent is how he is, both because of the mysterious bloodied character that appears in the road, and because of what happens to Brent.
After the little car crash incident, which I would like to add is quite subtle and isn't graphic in the slightest, the film starts moving at a rapid pace, we flash 6 months forward and Brent is now a depressed and somewhat isolated teenager in his last year of high school. He carries a razor blade around his neck which he uses to self harm, and puts himself into dangerous situations, such as rock climbing, in order to feel alive. He blames himself for his fathers death and due to this, has a noticeably troubled relationship with his Mum. The only person who he seems to have a connection with is his girlfriend, Holly. We are also introduced to Brent's friend, Jamie, who seems like a sort of toned down Australian version of Clark Duke (best known for his role of Lance Johnson in Sex Drive), and although his character and the side plot which revolves around him and a gothic girl called Mia seems irrelevant throughout the film, at the end it all makes sense. The side plot does also take the edge off of the goriness, you know? It allows the viewer to take a deep breath and absorb what they've just seen.
The Loved Ones starts off as dramatic, mysterious and rather gripping, but soon starts to become quite toned down and samey.. yet another depressed teenager preparing to go to a school dance. Then Brent is asked to go to the high school prom by Lola, a seemingly innocent, almost child-like and quiet girl, nothing struck me as odd. Brent lets her down gently, politely explaining that he is already going with his girlfriend Holly, and off he goes to meet her. Holly and Brent have sex in Holly's car, which is quite graphic and there's a bit of boobage, and we see via the car window that Lola has followed Brent and is watching them, which instantly adds a bit of creepiness to the character, and the look on her face suggests that she is not a happy bunny!
Holly gives Brent a lift home, and we realise the extent of his communication issues due to isolation/depression, and he's unable to reply to her "I love you" and instead gets out of the car awkwardly, and they arrange for Holly to pick him up later to go to the dance. Brent then goes to an isolated place (this is just about where things start to go wrong!) and faffs about a bit climbing a rock edge/nearly falling off, smoking, listening to his iPod, hugging his dog, lieing at the top of a cliff where no one can see him and then the drama kicks in again. Brent's dog gives him the warning signals but Brent is too busy absorbed in self pity with his iPod full blast to notice the faceless man (we are shown the mysterious figure from the shoulders downwards) with leather gloves on approaching him. An injection is shoved into his neck (which we later find out contains bleach!) and his dog stabbed, and he is carted off to the boot of mystery man's car.
The whole dog-stabbing part of the film isn't as bad as it sounds. It's done off camera, and we simply hear a yelp and realise what has happened a little later in the film. As mystery man drives off to where ever he is taking Brent, a bit of 'the hills have eyes' is thrown in, and we see him reverse the car back to a dead possum and pick it up, adding that sort of edginess and although the tension and fear is already building, I think it backs it up that the person who has Brent is slightly unhinged.. what sort of person picks up road kill? Brents mum becomes increasingly worried as the darkness arrives and decides to go looking for him, and heads to the spot where he was previously, which makes it clear that this is a regular place where Brent goes to self harm/isolate himself. With no sign from Brent, his mum heads home and is confronted with the stabbed dog, which really gets the panic running through both the audience and the mother and girlfriend charaters.
Then the fun begins. Brent, now known as the film's definate victim, wakes up in a house which is decorated just as a prom would be, with a banner, a crystal ball and various other decorations. Lola (daddy's little princess) is there, along with her dad, and Bright Eyes, who is presumably Lola's mum. Lola's in a bright pink prom dress which her 'Daddy' as she calls him bought for her, and she's wearing a party hat. It is obvious that the show now revolves around her, and her only, or else. Our lead character at this point is tied to a chair, dressed in a prom suit, unable to speak due to the earlier injection, and he has Lola throwing herself all over him while her over protective Daddy watches. I think it's quite sexualised to begin with. I couldn't help wonder if she was about to rape him, but then the really bad stuff starts happening and it's clear this isn't about sex. It's about pain, torture, control and revenge.
The torture scenes are pretty brutal. I cringed, I hid behind a cushion, I let out dissaproving "oohh god" noises, but I couldn't look away. The torture methods in this film are genius. The writer and director, Sean Byrne, has quite obviously got a very good imagination! There's some unlikely objects used in the torture scenes including a fork and salt, a drill (oh god, the drill!), a hammer, zombie-like creatures who live under the house and a cup. This once seemingly innocent girl transforms into an absolute merciless lunatic, and mixed with her little incestious crush on Daddy it really creates a nasty, horrible piece-of-work character who is easily hateable, and by the end of the film I really wanted her seriously hurt and/or dead - I usually watch horror films and see the killer as just a killer, there's no background information on the killer and no personality, but with this girl we see what a nasty piece of work she really is. Robin McLeavy, who plays her, is amazing. Her acting is flawless, she really has the ability to portray a phychopath with effortless talent. Her and John Brumpton (Daddy) are a horror movie match made in heaven.
The film has twists and turns throughout and ingenious torture methods including a drill and boiling water which results in the victim (not Brent) adopting a zombie-like state. How? I'm not telling. You have to watch it yourself! The acting in this is superb, I can not fault a single member of the cast's performance. At times Jamie (Brent's friend) is cheesy, over the top and somewhat cringe worthy to watch, but it's not the script, it's just the character, if that makes sense. I think the writer and director, Sean Byrne, wanted to create a clumsy, funny and relatable character but I really didn't take a shine to him, although the side plot is an important part of the story.
I found this film extremely fast-paced, entertaining, intense, gripping and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I know that the blood etc was fake, but considering there was no CGI used in this film it looks scarily realistic. The horrifying screams that come from Brent's mouth are enough to send shivers down my spine and Xavier Samuel, who plays him, does a brilliant job of portraying both a depressed teenager and a torture victim. The ending of the film was brilliant. Most of the questions I had went unexplained, but everything sort of fitted together. The way the film is shot is eerily beautiful, with a clear, crisp picture and the film looks amazing on a HD tv. If you're looking for a film that will keep you entertained and hooked to the screen then this is one for you, although if blood makes you queezy this is probably one to avoid!
The Loved Ones is currently available on DVD and Blu Ray. The DVD can be purchased from Amazon for £4.29 which I think is a reasonable price. The film has an 18 certificate and runs for 84 minutes.
= = = = = =
As I have said before, the Aussie make quirky movies, and for some reason most of the good ones have glitter balls in them. Glitter balls are synonymous with Australian movies, The Loved Ones no different, the Strictly Ballroom of horror. But glitter balls aside this is a stylish little cult classic from Down Under a real must for our ciao horror fans, although who am I to suggest they haven't already seen it. Its one of those modern horror films that mix a bit of torture porn with genuine dark humour and strong acting performances, this a visual treat from frame one, care taken in all departments. If you my age you just get bored with what is often a cheesy genre and so when something like this surfaces you have to take note and give it a spin.
Xavier Samuel ... Brent
Robin McLeavy ... Lola 'Princess'
Victoria Thaine ... Holly
Jessica McNamee ... Mia
Richard Wilson ... Jamie
John Brumpton ... Daddy
Andrew S. Gilbert ... Paul
Suzi Dougherty ... Carla
Victoria Eagger ... Judith
High school surfer hunk Brent (Xavier Samuel) is recovering from a car crash where he lost some of his memory and all of his father, turning to weed and cutting to get over his pain. He is preparing to go to the school prom, choosing the gorgeous Holly (Victoria Thaine) over the eccentric Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) for his date, sure to be prom king and queen, whoever he takes. Goth queen Mia (Jessica McNamee) is as equally sexy but not so lucky in the dating stakes, gauche and chubby pothead Jamie (Richard Wilson) getting to take her to the ball.
But Brent never makes it, kidnapped and tied up at the dinner table of the Stone Family, Dad (John Brumpton) ready with the hammer and drill if Lola doesn't get her way with Brent and a night at her version of the prom, whatever that way is. To stop him protesting about being tied up she gets dad to inject his throat with bleach, the lesser of the many evils to come.
A local cop is soon on the bloody trail, but his efforts also curtailed by the Stone family. Kids of gone missing before around these parts and this abduction looking very similar. It looks like Brent will have to make his own escape and after one failed attempt it doesn't look like that will be easy. The Stone family are seriously demented and Lola the worst of them, not a lady to be scorned on promo night.
Director Sean Byrne has made a fabulous debut feature here, Australia's best horror since the extremely disturbing Wolf Creek. This is no where near that visceral as the comedy aspect moves it away from being too serious, although bloody, seedy and sadistic at times to please the hardcore. Admittedly the two stories of the two dating couples are somewhat disconnected and so a faulty contrivance in the narrative, that pretty much the film. But what the hell as this is really fresh, imaginative, and unexpectedly dark and naughty. It has all the delicious tongue-in-cheek you need so not to take itself seriously.
It did not, alas, do well in Australia, poorly promoted in just 90 cinemas and making a measly $145,675 Aussie dollars box-office, which is about £70,000 quid. For such an excellent first time effort that is an appalling return. This is way better than that and you guys need to boost its gross a little bit more by renting it. I think its on Channel Four on one of its cable channels and so worth catching in it.
= = = The Critics = = =
The Sun - "Growing pains have never been this excruciating. The Loved Ones is an instant horror classic"
Filmink.com - "Debut director Sean Byrne has carved out a flick to stand beside Brian De Palma's high school horror classic Carrie, such is the beauty and brutality of his execution. It's the best entry to the Aussie horror canon since Wolf Creek
The Times -"Sean Byrne makes one hell (and I mean hell) of a feature film debut with The Loved Ones. It's slick, confident and wickedly funny. Lola is straight out of Sam Raimi's nightmares; a terrifying cross between Carrie and Rachel Berry from Glee".
Top Critic.com -"Transcends mere torture porn -- though there's plenty for the squeamish to squirm over here -- in its deftly controlled mix of empathy, grotesquerie and sardonic humor".
= = =The Ratings = = =
Imdb.com - 6.8/10.0 (4,245 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 96% critic's approval rating (Users 72%)
= = = = = = = = = = = =
'The loved ones' is an Australian horror/ thriller film written and directed by Sean Byrne. I'm not really into horror films but one night I was babysitting and there was nothing on TV. I noticed this was on and, knowing nothing at all about it I thought it sounded like quite a nice film. Well... it turned out I was completely wrong.
Brent Mitchell is a teenager who is dealing with the death of his father, who he killed in a car accident. When his classmate Lola, a seemingly innocent girl, asks him to the end of school dance, he turns her down as he is going with his good looking girlfriend, Holly. Lola clearly doesn't like rejection as she decides to get revenge by having her "daddy" kidnap Brent abruptly. Brent is taken to Lola's house and dressed up in a tuxedo, then tied to a chair. Lola changes into a prom dress and her and her father can torture him in all sorts of ways to the theme of a high school dance. The torture is gory and at times I found it difficult to watch. However, I don't think the torture methods are as imaginative or unique as those used in many other horror films. The film also has incestrial undertones as it seems that Lola and her daddy have a crush on one another. Just another disgusting element to the film. I'll also mention here that the title of my review, for those of you who haven't seen the film, comes from a scene in the film during which Lola force feeds Brent chicken and forces him to answer the question: "Is it finger- licking good?".
There is also a side story involving Brent's best friend Jamie, who goes to the dance with a goth girl called Mia. This story line annoyed me for a lot of the film because it seemed completely unrelated, however you see how it links up at the end.
The star is Robin Mcleavy, who plays Lola. At the start of the film, she seems sweet and innocent and you almost feel sorry for her when Brent turns her down. But the further into the film you get, the more you realise that Lola is actually a ruthless psychotic. Robin Mcleavy's acting is really something as she plays the part very convincingly. Brent is played by Xavier Samuel who portrays the detached teenager well. John Brumpton plays Lola's father well, showing the different emotions he is feeling: at times he seems to really want to hurt Brent but at times you can see that he is thinking this is wrong. Overall, the acting is great in this film, really convincing. Anne Scott-Pendlebury plays an unusual and sort of unexplained character called Bright eyes. She doesn't do a lot but her presence just adds to the creepy atmosphere of Lola's house, as she sits lifeless in a chair.
The songs in this film are not ones I have heard before, but I did enjoy the soundtrack which consisted mainly of australian rock music. "Not pretty enough" by Kasey Chambers is the song played most often as it seems to be a favourite of Lola's. It is a nice song but I will now always relate it to the torturing occurring in this film.
MY THOUGHTS OVERALL
This film is disgusting, gory and disturbing. It makes you question whether the writer, Sean Byrne, has mental problems himself as it is hard to believe that someone of sane mind could come up with this. However, I found it strangely gripping and found that whilst part of me wanted to turn the TV off and forget what i'd just seen, a larger part of me was intrigued to see how it would end. The second part won. It's difficult to know how many stars to give this film because, similarly, part of me wants to give it one, and part of me wants to give it five. Again, the second part is winning so i'm going with four. If you like horror films, you would probably enjoy The loved ones. But if you are scared of gore and horror, steer clear!
**The Loved Ones 2009**
DVD release date: 4th October 2010
Running time: 84 minutes
Following the death of his father in a car accident Brent is no longer the young man he once was, plagued by guilt and haunted by what happened he tries to block out the events of that evening by getting high and detaching himself from those around him. Only Holly his girlfriend seems to be able to get through to him and as the school prom approaches he realises he has something to look forward to. Someone else has their eye on Brent though, Lola - she wants him to take her to the prom and is used to getting her own way and as Brent is soon to discover what Lola wants, Lola gets - Her Daddy will make sure of that...
**'Ozploitation' at its finest**
Made in Australia, 'The Loved Ones' fits nicely into the recent horror releases that have come from down under and whilst not quite as extreme as "Wolf Creek" it proved to be a little gem of a film which caught me by surprise. The premise has been done before in other films, holding someone against their will and doing unspeakable things to them isn't anything new but unlike some other titles 'The Loved Ones' is presented in unflinching detail which manages to build and hold the suspense and tension whilst providing some truly shocking scenes. Everything about the film is appealing, the minimal cast are engaging to see, the single room setting where Lola and Brent spend much of their time is thoughtfully dressed and designed with some quirky details and the overall premise is believable with compelling acting performances from all concerned.
**Her name was Lola, she was a Psycho**
The star of the film though is undoubtedly Lola herself played by Robin McLeavely. Not your typical deranged stalker/madwoman, Lola is a pretty young thing that looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth when we are first introduced to her. The film 'Misery' is always used by me as a benchmark for others which tackle similar ideas and Mcleavely is up there alongside Kathy Bates in her portrayal of the wickedly disturbed Lola. I like characters who are larger than life and command your attention and Lola does just that in every scene she is in, her 'Daddy' who help her gets what she wants is equally as deranged with no other thought but to provide only the best for his 'princess' and the dynamics between the two appear to run much deeper than a normal father/daughter relationship. There are plenty of black-comedy moments from both daddy and princess in the film and its these that make the experience much more fun than the usual run-of-the-mill shocker flicks that are generally released, the contrast between the bizarre, almost laugh out loud absurdity is dampened with a pervading sense of dread and foreboding and on the whole the film manages to balance the two perfectly.
Up to now I haven't mentioned Brent at all, he who finds himself at the hands of Lola. The reason why is that for much of the middle section of the film he is there just to react to what happens to him, unable to speak and tied to a chair with restraints his part in the film really is secondary to the events that befall him. He does get his moment to exact his revenge though as you would expect from a film of this nature but before he gets to that point he has to endure some horrific torture.
**She Did What?... With a What??**
If you have ever read any of my other reviews before you will know that I am a self confessed fan of the horror genre and generally go by the adage of 'the gorier the better', you will also know that I don't like revealing spoilers in my write-ups so rather than describe in explicit detail what Lola and her daddy do to poor old Brent I'll leave that for you to discover. Be warned though that the film is an 18 certificate and some of the things Brent has to go through _are_ pretty gruesome and unlike other films which cut away at the last second there are some very effective make-up and gore shots in The Loved Ones which reveal _exactly_ what happens. Australian horror films do like to go the extra mile in providing shocks and this film is a fine example of one, If you like your horror bloody then this should definitely be a film that you check out for yourself. The gore effects plus the twisted sense of humour should appeal to plenty of horror fans and I would happily recommend this film so long as you're not put off by very strong scenes of violence or humiliation.
Up to now I have been very positive about The Loved Ones but the film is not perfect so does not get a five star rating from me, there is a sub-plot containing Brent's best friend, Jamie and his exploits with his date for the prom which takes the action away from Lola and Brent. Why these were included I couldn't quite understand and only seemed to be there to include some debauchery, what Jamie and his girl got up to didn't enhance the central plot and gave the film a slightly disjointed feel to it, for me those scenes could have easily been cut out with no detrimental effect to Lola and Brent's story - maybe I missed the reasons they were there? They certainly weren't memorable enough for me anyway and rather than maintain the sense of tension already established with Brent and Lola the film does tend to lose its impact during those sequences.
Overall though there is much to admire in The Loved Ones, for another example of Australian horror it fulfils its purpose to shock and I for one cringed in the right places, cheered on the revenge and felt satisfied with the conclusion. Its running time of 84 minutes seemed to be pitched just right even though the 'Jamie' subplots did distract the attention away from Lola but on the whole the film is definitely recommended. To sum up my thoughts I was reminded in parts of other great horror films, "Carrie" obviously for the Prom references, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for the all-in-the-family aspects of the film and of course "Misery" for the actual central storyline, The Loved Ones effectively amalgamates the best bits of other horror films together in its own creation and is definitely a solid example of good Australian horror.
**Price and My Rating**
For a relatively recent release the Blu Ray edition of the film is available for a fantastically low price of just £8.99 and the DVD is even cheaper at £5.99 on amazon.co.uk at the moment, this is probably down to the fact that the film would be quite an obscure choice and not one of the better known American horror releases. Personally I think it's a great price for a fantastic film and would certainly recommend its purchase even though some may be slightly disappointed at the lack of extras on the retail disc.
As far as my rating is concerned, 4 stars from me seems taking into consideration everything I have mentioned in this review and this comes with a recommendation to either rent or buy the film as it should appeal to plenty of horror fans.
Thanks for reading my review.
Please note that this also appears on ciao under my username
This is a review of the film and region 2 DVD presentation.
Brent lives at home with his mother and their pet dog. Months earlier, Brent's father was killed in an accident and both Brent and his mother are still struggling to cope with their loss. Brent is withdrawn and moody but finds some comfort in the arms of his girlfriend Holly or hanging out with his best friend Jamie. When it comes around to the school dance, a quiet girl named Lola approaches Brent and asks whether he will go to the dance with her. He declines politely, unaware that he may have upset the girl more than he realised.
The glitter ball hanging from the ceiling is slowly turning, casting a shimmering and yet somehow eerie light around the four walls. The room is unfamiliar, but a few dance hall props are strewn here and there. His arms are tied behind his back and he still feels woozy where somebody drugged him. There is a young girl in a pink dress sat watching him and a man sat around the other side of the table. Wait a minute. Is that Lola? What's going on?
"This is the hammer I killed your dog with," says the man and Brent's worst nightmare suddenly becomes reality.
==Re-igniting Prom Horror==
Something about the school prom has always captured the imagination of horror writers. The outpouring of hormones and adolescent angst seems to provide endless opportunities for psychotic stalkers or teenaged cruelty. Whether it's Jamie Lee Curtis being stalked by a nutcase in Prom Night or Sissy Spacek being immersed in a bucket of pig's blood in Carrie, it seems that the high school prom rarely ends on a positive note. It has become something of a horror caricature over the years, however, with films like Scream starting to parody the whole concept and it has been some time since somebody made a 'good' prom night horror movie. Well, that's where Australian writer/director Sean Byrne comes in with this deliciously nasty slice of horror that has a seemingly relentless series of surprises up its dark sleeves.
The Loved Ones takes similar territory (the quiet girl at school, mocked by the authors, rejected by one of the 'good-looking' boys) and turns it on its head. Here, Lola isn't the victim. She's the perpetrator and it's only when she gets going that you realise just how bad she is. For Brent, the ordeal is overwhelming. Within seconds of regaining consciousness, he's injected with a fluid that stops him screaming, which is ironic really because during the next sixty minutes or so, that's pretty much all he's going to want to do. To make matters worse, Lola isn't in this all by herself. She's Daddy's little Princess, and in spite of what quickly demonstrates itself as an extremely unhealthy relationship, what Princess wants, Princess gets. Unfortunately for Brent, this time it's him.
This is a horror film for horror fans. There's nothing particularly sanitised or softened about The Loved Ones. It's a typically Australian film. It's edgy and unpredictable. It spares us from caricature and tips us into a slightly primitive, rather remote kind of place where clearly anything goes. Like most Australian films (horror or otherwise) teenagers are portrayed as rather dysfunctional, but The Loved Ones leaves the other ones standing. Lola - or Princess as she is generally known - is as psychotic as they come and with the capable assistance of her father, she's pretty much unstoppable.
The film evokes other recent Australian horrors such as Wolf Creek and Acolytes. Where American film directors like to portray the US as sun-filled, upbeat and exciting, Australian directors have a rather more subdued take on their home territory. Not shy to demonstrate the country's natural beauty, they somehow manage to make it sinister instead of picturesque, the landscape appearing to imitate the harshness of the events taking place in the narrative. In The Loved Ones, the world seems out of control. Authority seems impotent, inutile and powerless. It's almost an alternate reality and yet, as the news occasionally reveals, it's actually entirely possible. Bad things really do happen to nice people.
==Tale of the Unexpected==
What sets The Loved Ones out from the competition is that it's just not predictable. Whatever you think is going to happen, the film is almost guaranteed to yield a few surprises. Part slasher, part thriller, part torture porn and part, ah well that would be telling. That's a delight that you'll need to discover for yourself. That aside, this is gruesome stuff. As soon as Lola is revealed to be a psychopath, it's entirely relentless. Many of the conventions of unrequited love are abandoned from the outset. Lola doesn't gradually turn against Brent. She seems to despise him from the beginning. She doesn't start with some moderate teasing and cruelty. She's straight in there with the hammer. She's nothing, if not hardcore.
The cat and mouse elements are played right down. Byrne doesn't really seem to want to play a stalk and slash and simply wants to leave Brent to the mercies of Lola and her father from word go. The tension is broken only by a curious sub-plot featuring best friend Jamie and a hot otherwise unknown girl and there adventures in the more conventional side of going to the dance. It's as those Jamie represents how things *should* be and yet there's clearly something not right about his night either. As things bubble away and it all gets more and more desperate, it all gradually falls into place - if you've taken your hands away from your eyes that is.
Torture porn is a vastly over-used term these days. 'Good' torture porn films are very few and far between. Most are silly, nearly all are cheap and none of them really get the emotion of the situation right. In The Loved Ones, Sean Byrne gets it spot on. The torture is brutal. The audience feels every blow and wince and yet there isn't actually that much of it. There's a nasty innovative streak throughout that might eventually have you wondering who thinks up this stuff but it's car crash viewing. When you realise that the conventions that the hero is guaranteed to escape might not be observed here, you suddenly realise that anything goes - and that makes The Loved Ones quite a gruesome experience.
It's largely devoid of humour too. The trailer might lead the audience to believe that this is a little tongue-in-cheek but Byrne eviscerates any sense of humour here and drenches the whole thing in buckets of dirty sweat. There's no other way to describe it than 'unpleasant' and in so many ways. When we meet the wretched creature that is Lola's mother, we can only begin to wonder what horrors she has had to endure. Our skin crawls when Lola's father eyes up his daughter in her underwear as she tries on her prom dress and when Brent needs to use the bathroom, every man in the room will soon be crossing his legs in terror. And that's before the rug in the kitchen is pulled back...
It's easy to see why The Loved Ones was so revered at many of the horror film festivals. It's the sheer sense of lunacy and surprise that every frame yields. It's the way in which the film allows you to think you know exactly what's going on and then quickly proves you haven't really got a clue. The Loved Ones simultaneously respects and tramples over every known horror convention ('Clink, rasp, scrape, clink, rasp, scrape') without ever relaxing its hold on the audience. The next time a girl asks you on a date, the chances are that you'll say yes having watched this.
It's hard to deny that the star of this particular show is Robin McLeavy, whose psychotic portrayal of Lola/Princess is frighteningly convincing. It was important for the makers to select a girl who was quite attractive. It would have been too obvious to have a frump or a freak, so the fact that she does actually looks quite innocent and feminine makes this all the more startling. McLeavy seems to enjoy it all far too much for comfort, combining a childish kind of mischief with a relentless, savage, nastiness that leads you to wonder just what she's going to do next.
Ironically, it's hard to decide exactly what her father (John Brumpton) is all about. Sometimes he seems to be the leader, sometimes just a willing assistant and then every now and then there's a flicker of realisation that what he/she is doing is wrong. Brumpton handles this ambiguity perfectly. He's creepy and nasty when he needs to be, without ever resorting to pantomime and the partnership is pretty convincing, it has to be said.
Xavier Samuel is limited by his character's ordeal. He's not the conventional, square-jawed hero of the piece but, again, this makes things a little more realistic. You can see why Lola might have been drawn to his brooding, slightly mysterious looks and this offsets the demure innocence of his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine on fine form) perfectly. That aside, Samuel doesn't really have to say a lot and doesn't really have to do a lot but it's hard not to be convincing when somebody is hammering knives into your feet.
==The Region 2 DVD Presentation==
There's a certain grainy imperfection to The Loved Ones that seems entirely appropriate. That doesn't mean it's not impressive, because it is, but it's not glossy and sharp like a more conventional, bigger budget picture might be. The colours and rich and intoxicating, from the pink of Princess's dress to the vivid scarlet of the spilt blood and yet the whole thing has a subdued kind of atmosphere, as though the world is in dreadful apprehension of what will happen next. This is almost certainly a film that high definition would not improve. It needs faults. It needs to be imperfect. Its flaws are almost its strengths.
The soundtrack is excellent too, combining Indie Australian rock music with a sombre, rather eerie score that complements the proceedings admirably. That aside, the surround sound is largely unused here, which is a little disappointing particularly given some of the later events that could have benefited from the subtleties offered by the use of other speakers. The special features are very limited. There are a number of interviews with the director and four of the cast members but they're presented in a terribly fragmented format with barely more than thirty seconds devoted to each. It's largely impossible to say anything even remotely insightful in that time and the makers would have done far better to try and draw together one consolidated feature. Likewise there are about ninety seconds of behind-the-scenes footage, which is largely pointless.
==What PlipPlop Reckons==
The strongest horror film for some time, The Loved Ones is brutal and bonkers. Demonstrating that dark, eerie verve that isn't uncommon in Australian film, The Loved Ones manages to be everything it wouldn't have been had it been made in Hollywood. Lots of genres fuse here in a nasty little flick that will certainly separate the men from the boys. This is a cult classic waiting to be discovered - and Sean Byrne just became a name to be watched.
Hmmm, I'm not quite sure where to start with this one. Not knowing what to expect, the synopsis suggested a teen horror flick, probably a gory slasher, with a bit of emotion/psychology thrown in for good measure. I would agree with the 'demented' part of a comment on the DVD ('A truly demented little masterpiece'), but would disagree that it's either a 'masterpiece' or a 'must see'. This film left me feeling a bit blasé overall and isn't one I would rush to see again.
The Loved Ones stars Xavier Samuel (who, I have realised having looked on IMDB, is part of the Twilight Saga films like Eclipse) as Brent Mitchell. Early on we witness a car accident as Brent avoids a mysterious figure in the road and goes head-on with a tree, killing his father. To distract himself somewhat from the obvious guilt this is inflicting, Brent turns to drugs and music. But this isn't a grunge film; his date to the prom is his all-too-perfect girlfriend, and the night looks set to be one to remember, important for the students going to mark their place in the world.
Unfortunately, one girl gets her heart broken in the process. After asking Brent to the prom and being turned down in favour of his girlfriend (and quite rightly so!) the girl seeks revenge.
Okay, so it sounds straightforward enough. Jealous girl who's a tad strange perhaps, and is obviously quite deluded. When Brent is kidnapped, taken back to her home where her father waits, things go from bad to worse. The father, 'daddy' (played by John Brumpton) makes sure his little 'princess' (Robin McLeavy) gets her own prom night at home with her dream date.
Aside from that idea being a bit warped anyway, the father daughter pair reveal the depths of their sadism when they use imaginative resources with which to torture their guest of honour. It was quite gory but fairly releastic, and made for fairly uncomfortable viewing at times (which is a good thing for a horror film!).
However, the gore can't make up for the seemingly over the top strangeness the characters portray. I think there's a line between being weird and creepy, and trying too hard to be creepy, and this film is teetering on that line. I couldn't really make up my mind whether I really enjoyed the performances by McLeavy and Brumpton, because I found them rather annoying most of the time. Samuel, however, played Brent well, though that probably wasn't too hard as he spent the majority of the film being tied down, drugged and mutilated.
The overall feel to the film was reasonably dark but some scenes didn't seem polished enough for an effective finish; some actions seemed unnecessary or too long, for instance. There was little that gave support to the plot, which wasn't strong or explanatory enough to feel satisfactory.
Whilst most of the torturing appeared fairly realistic, parts of the plot and scenes weren't, which made the film more difficult to identify with and thus it lost its atmospheric edge for me. I couldn't say I found it scary enough, but it was worth a watch if just to say at the end 'what the heck did I just watch?!'.
RRP £15.99 but selling on Amazon for £7.99
2010, rated certificate 18, 84 minutes