Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Loved Ones (2009)

DVD Release date:  4 October 2010 (UK)

Directed by Sean Byrne

Written by Dean Byrne

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine and John Brumpton

Australian Director Sean Byrne gives the horror genre a most welcome -and painfully nasty - boost with this shining example of a true piece of cinematic terror.
Drawing on a much maligned subgenre such as 'torture porn' may be ill advised if you can't find a way to draw new blood from it and do something different – and here is where Sean Byrne delivers admirably.
Opening with a fast and brutal car smash we are soon dropped in the middle of the depressed and bleak world of Brent (Xavier Samuel) - a teenager who lost his father in aforementioned accident where he was behind the wheel. Carrying a wealth of grief and guilt and dealing with his mother’s subsequent alcoholism, the only happiness Brent seems to have to save him from a dark descent into complete mental breakdown, is his sweet and loving girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine).
Still, this is a horror movie so you can very much expect the shit to hit the fan at any time and this comes in the form of school misfit Lola Stone (played with incredible and terrifying talent by Robin McLeavy). When Lola first asks Brent to accompany her to the end of school dance with her meek whine of a voice you would be forgiven some surprise to discover the true twisted monster which lurks beneath her shy facade.
Not allowing a little polite rejection to stand in her way, Lola has her 'Daddy' (a very scary John Brumpton) kidnap Brent and bring him home to their very own end of school dance. Not wishing to give too much else away as there are plenty of surprises to be had in Lola's house of horrors, it is safe to say that this prom will not be a pleasant experience for Brent. Rather than vodka laced punch, dancing the night away and some 'fun' in the back seat of a car, Brent instead gets up close and personal with knives, syringes, hammers, powers drills...and in keeping with the prom theme - a mirrored disco ball!
In what appears to be an attempt to alleviate the stress of Brent’s ordeal we are also shown a side story in which Brent’s best friend Sac takes the girl of his dreams, sexy goth Mia, to the dance. Here these characters manage to get up to all the things Brent could only wish that he was doing. While most of this side story appears very much irrelevant it does tie in rather well at the end, where we find out further details of Lola and family’s hideous endeavours - let’s just say that things are more powerful and far reaching than they appear to be in the first half of the film. In  fact my sound advice to anyone who intends to see this flick is AVOID THE OFFICIAL TRAILER LIKE THE PLAGUE! Way too much given away here and will certainly detract from the viewing experience.
Performances are solid all round in ‘The Loved Ones’ with everybody doing a great job with their roles, most of which aside from ‘Sac’ require some grit. Most impressive however are the well chosen leads. Xavier Samuel seems to effortlessly portray a damaged teenager finding it difficult to cope in the wake of tragedy. He also shows great promise when baring his teeth and fighting for his life after accepting it’s kill or be killed. Robin McLeavy gives the performance of her life in a role that will get her noticed even if people start crossing the street to avoid her. Her spoiled, sexual, childish and violently insane ‘Lola’ tramples all over Kathy Bates’ ‘Annie Wilkes‘ with bloody spiked stilettos  – and further more she seems to be having a blast doing so. The girl deserves more roles – pronto.
I highly recommend going into The Loved Ones as blind as possible to ensure you experience all of the twists and turns as they are intended to be. This film is one blood splattered date you do not want to miss or be late for.  Also -If you are thinking of taking a weirdo to your school dance do yourself a favour and stick with Carrie White!!

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