Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Loved Ones (2009) - A Review

Prom night can be torture. 

We’re fast approaching the Halloween season; that means that my future entails a lot of Cramps records, even more horror films (if that’s even possible), and plenty of badass parties. Plus putting together my costume. I fucking love this time of year. 

I spent a while trying to think of what I wanted to review this week. I probably watch atleast 5 to 10 a week, sometimes repeats, but it’s always hard to go through and pick which one I want to write about. This is also made difficult by the calendar I’m putting together for next month, but I think that today I will be reviewing the Australian film, The Loved Ones

Title: The Loved OnesDirector(s): Sean Byrne
Writer(s): Sean Byrne
Producer(s): Mark Lazarus, Michael Boughen
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton
Studio: Ambience Entertainment (Australia), Paramount Pictures (US)
Running Time: 84 minutes
Release Date: September 13th, 2009

Your quintessential story of a crazy ass bitch who goes, well, batshit crazy. Here’s your IMDB approved synopsis: 

“In order to avoid a ghostly figure in the road, high school senior Brent Mitchell wraps his car around a tree, killing his father. Constantly confronted by his mother's emotional collapse after the accident, Brent escapes into a marijuana fueled world of loud metal music to block the pain and guilt. Dejected and out of sorts, he has a shot at happiness with his girlfriend Holly, a grounded, caring girl with drop dead good looks, a dream date for the high school prom. But his plans are thwarted by a disturbing series of events that take place under a mirrored disco ball, involving pink satin, glitter, syringes, nails, power drills and a secret admirer. Brent has become the prom king at a macabre, sadistic event where he is the entertainment.”

In today’s day and age of clueless, supernatural horror there’s really something to be said about a traditional horror film. Some call it outplayed and outdated, but there are certain things that never go out of style and with horror, a good old fashioned homicidal maniac is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered. The Loved Ones is an Australian horror film directed by Sean Byrne (this is his debut film) and starring Xavier Samuel (The Twilight Saga), Robin McLeavy (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Victoria Thaine (The Son of the Mask), and if you’re looking for a fun horror romp, then you have found it.

This was a fun one. Doesn’t require much thought, it’s one that you toss on when you want an easily digestible horror flick that’s not going to take too much out of you. Now, I hesitated even typing that out because I feel like it reads as an insult, but I assure you, that is not the case at all. By easily digestible, I mean, you don’t need to analyze everything (i.e. The Shining) and it’s not going to make you want to assume fetal and cry for your mother (i.e. Martyrs). It’s a good old fashioned traditional horror movie, with a few fun twists, PLUS you get to see a Twilight vampire get tortured to shit for an hour and a half. 

The film revolves around Lola, a lonely girl who has an entirely unhealthy relationship with her father, and her desire to find her “prince”. You see, Lola is a princess, and daddy does everything he can to keep it that way because when Lola gets mad, Lola does fucked up things. This is where poor Brent comes in, and when he turns down her invitation to prom, Lola and her daddy decide to have their own prom at home. Only theirs involves a variety of power tools and twisted mental games.

For a debut effort from Byrne, I was impressed. When I went to his IMDB post viewing I was surprised to see that this was his first film. While he’s done a variety of shorts (and has an additional directorial credit on The Secret), this was his first fulltime position in the director’s chair. He seemed to have complete control over this world, injecting you into the genuinely creepy and unsettling atmosphere of Lola and Daddy’s house, but more importantly I feel that he was successful in the most important aspect of creating a horror film. He had me emotionally connected to Brent, to his struggles, to his pain, to the entire experience that he was having and all I was thinking was how badly I wanted Brent to not only escape, but kick these sick assholes right where it hurts. He gets an A+ in my book, and I will gladly watch something that he does next. 

Let’s talk about the cast now. The cast is ultimately carried by two people, Xavier Samuel and Robin McLeavy. They were both extremely strong in their roles, and it’s obvious when you look at their acting credits. They have found mainstream success, Samuel in the Twilight series and McLeavy in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The highlight for me was McLeavy, although I thoroughly enjoyed Samuel in his role as well. When we are first introduced to Lola, she seems like a sweet young girl who only wants a cute boy to take her to prom. Boy howdy, are you in for a ride with this one. I feel that there is a very fine line that can be crossed when it comes to “crazy”, some achieve it (i.e. Betsy Palmer in Friday the 13th) and some don’t (i.e. Laurie Metcalfe in Scream 2, although her crazy eyes haunted my dreams for weeks). Put McLeavy into the former. When the film starts to pick up, you get an immediate sense of dread and I found myself fearing what she was going to do next to poor Brent.

So, in closing, The Loved Ones is a great surface value horror film. A popcorn horror, as I call it. There’s all the violence, sadism and torture that you could want (gorehounds, however, will be disappointed) and even a few decent twists thrown in. If you’re looking for something straight forward to throw on with some friends, you have your pick. I’d recommend it.

- Rg Lovecraft

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