Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence and Torture, Sexuality, Some Language, Teen Drug and Alcohol Use
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Written by: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson & John Brumpton
Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars. These lyrics seem especially appropriate when discussing this Australian import. This is a story of a broken-hearted teenage girl who decides to break certain body parts of the boy who rejected her invitation to prom. Both darkly hilarious and deeply disturbing, THE LOVED ONES is constantly twisted through its tight just-over-80-minutes running time. If you were to combine the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with a John Hughes movie, this would be the result.
Brent is struggling with the loss of his father and deeply loves his girlfriend, Holly. When the timid Lola asks him to the prom, he politely says that he’s already going with Holly and leaves her staring coldly at him in the school hallway. While out for a walk to clear his head, Brent is knocked out and kidnapped by someone. It turns out this someone is Lola’s psycho father. Lola and her daddy have a special evening planned for Brent. They’ve created a make-shift prom in their house and it involves torture of various kinds. As the evening goes on, Brent finds himself in a painful nightmare that he may survive, if he puts his mind to it and uses his limited resources well.
THE LOVED ONES took seemingly forever to finally get a release in the states. It premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Midnight Madness award. Then it took until the fall of 2010 to secure a release in its native country. It took until the summer of 2012 to finally receive a tiny limited release on a few screens in the good ol’ USA and finally became available on home video in time for Halloween 2012. While it’s not perfect, THE LOVED ONES is indeed a dark, brutal, and scary good time!
Something that definitely contributes to making the movie more entertaining than it should have been for a torture-porn flick is that there is a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about things. We don’t just stay with Brent the whole time, which would have made for a far more sadistic and unpleasant movie. We follow a sub-plot about his friend’s dysfunctional date to the prom and also see his girlfriend, mother, and a cop trying to find his whereabouts. These scenes give a much welcomed relief from the utter hell that Brent is being put through.
As far as the performances go, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Xavier Samuel is sympathetic and convincing as Brent. John Brumpton is very scary as Lola’s crazed father, who will go to any violent length to give his daughter what she wants. Then there’s Robin McLeavy who is amazing as the psychotic Lola. I praised TEETH and GINGER SNAPS earlier this month for using women in the killer/monster roles. We really need to balance the scales for gender in horror films and Lola shows just how down-to-the-bone frightening a woman scorned can be.
The script cleverly interconnects the sequence of events into a plot that winds up being far more carefully constructed than it would appear at first glance. There are some revelations in the final third that are nothing short of brilliant. The conclusion (though a tad predictable) is wholly satisfying as well. This is a crowd-pleasing horror film that is twisted, but also has a lot of entertainment value to be found! It’s not perfect due to the somewhat predictable path in the final 10 minutes, but THE LOVED ONES is an awesome horror film that deserves more recognition. This is one to stick on during a Halloween party with friends and watch them squirm and laugh. A must-see!