Okay, I’ve reviewed two crappy horror films, so here’s one to make up for that and then some. I had read a bit about this Australian horror film last year when it was making the rounds at all the film festivals I’m not worthy of being invited to. I heard it was a mix of old and new horror that was a tad similar to Peter Jackson’s splatter days before LORD OF THE RINGS. “That’s great,” I thought, but I didn’t really get my interest piqued until EFX Magazine described THE LOVED ONES as WOLF CREEK meets PRETTY IN PINK. Now, I still don’t know who the hell EFX Magazine is, but you have to admit that the combination of those two films is pretty interesting. Well, almost a year after all those other sites got to see the film, I was finally able to watch THE LOVED ONES the other night, and, yeah, EFX Magazine’s description is a pretty accurate one and I loved it. Check out the trailer that reveals a tad too much and then my thoughts on this sometimes intense, occasionally sick flick whose humor is consistently dark as pitch. I’m keeping this one brief as the less you know going in, the better.
Six months after a car accident claimed the life of his dad who was the passenger in the car he was driving, Brent (Xavier Samuel) has become a hollow shell of the teen he used to be. Suffering from both grief and guilt, Brent and his mother live day-to-day while the events that surrounded their loss slowly erodes what’s left of their relationship, widening the distance between them. The only thing keeping him from jumping off the nearby cliffs he climbs is the girlfriend he’s taking to the school dance later that evening. But hours before she arrives to pick him up, he’s kidnapped by the father of one of his classmates, a strange girl named Lola (Robin McLeavy) who’s hosting a dance of her own with Brent as the guest of honor — if he likes it or not.
Sean Byrne makes one hell of a debut with this bit of black comedy, understanding both horror and the fans of horror as evident by the mishmash of other iconic horror film elements seen throughout THE LOVED ONES, the end result being a film that not only delivers the goods but also gives horror one of the best female villains in recent memory. For any of you men out there who’ve ever suffered the side effects of a crazy chick scorned, Lola will bring back some bad memories you’d best left forgotten. Lola is a spoiled psychopath who can be best described as Veruca Salt meets Kathy Bates, and she’s as terrifying as she is unstable.
The things she and her daddy do to poor Brent will leave you peering between the fingers in front of your face or cringing in absolute disgust. But this is not your average doom-and-gloom torture flick. As you can see by the trailer, the gut-wrenching violence isn’t conducted by masked maniacs in dank dungeons with bloody walls. Nope, in THE LOVED ONES, the nasty business is carried out by a cute girl in a party hat, sprinkling glitter under a disco ball. Combined with Byrne’s use of humor and the Looney Tunes antics of Lola, this helps create an overall vibe that never feels like you’re watching torture porn — even though torture does make up the bulk of the film.
And man, oh man…what hell this daddy-daughter duo dole out on poor, helpless Brent! And just when you think it can’t get worse, that Byrne isn’t possibly going to let that happen: he does. Luckily, this brutality is broken up a bit by Brent’s occasional ability to get the upper hand against his abductors as well as a couple of minor subplots detailing Brent’s girlfriend trying to locate him and his best friend’s date at the actual dance. No worries, though, as when I say minor subplots, I mean it. The film is a lean 84 minutes, and not a frame is wasted.
Throw in Simon Chapman’s eye-popping cinematography, terrific performances from the entire cast (especially McLeavy and Samuel), some gruesome effects work, and a score featuring bands like CC Martini, The Dirtbombs, Mammoth Mammoth, and friggin’ Andre Williams, and you got yourself one twisted little horror film. I cannot recommend this one enough and can’t wait to see what Byrne comes up with next. Like others, I’m shocked that a US distributor has not grabbed THE LOVED ONES for a wide release in the States, especially when dreck like MY SOUL TO TAKE is taking up a screen at every one of my local theaters. For more information on the film, check out the official site or the Facebook Page and tell ‘em we gave the film four out of five power drill trepannings.
Rating:Tags: Horror, movie, review, thriller