LOVED ONES, THE
While driving his father on a country road, high-school senior Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel) swerves hard to avoid a half naked, bloodsoaked figure in the road, but ends up smashing into a tree, killing his father. Six months later, still depressed, he begins to reconnect with the world through his new girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine), with whom he has a date for the high-school formal. But this means rejecting Lola Stone's (Robin McKleavy) invitation to the dance, which has a negative effect on Lola, whose plans for Brent are not that easily upset. With the help of her father, Eric (John Brumpton) Lola gets a date with Brent under a disco ball, but it's not at the school formal.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Hell hath no fury like a demented woman rejected and Robin McLeavy gives a tasty turn as Lola, the most demented young woman you'd want to take to a dance. Her sweet face hides a hideously sick and twisted mind. Boiling a rabbit (a la Fatal Attraction) seems like playschool fun compared to her house of horrors, a cottage that sits quietly in a country clearing. So if the stars you're looking for are the likes of a hammer, a nail, a razor blade, big kitchen knives, an electric drill and boiling water, this film is definitely star studded.
Slipping into the torture porn genre with ease, The Loved Ones has been stripped down to its bare essentials, with no plot elements to stumble on. After starting with a couple of cinematic clichés (radio tuner searching for suitable station, slo-mo pan-tilt from boots to head to reveal striking young woman) the film settles down to its business of causing pain to the character we perceive as the hero. And to us.
An intercutting subplot eventually ties a couple of loose ends together, in which Brent's nerdy buddy Sac (Richard Wilson) gets to take that striking young woman, Mia, (Jessica McNamee) to the formal - much to his surprise. Her dad (Andrew S. Gilbert) is the local cop, and their own family anguish has relevance to Brent's demons. But the subplot feels manipulative and clunky as it drops in and out of the structure. It's pointless complaining about some of the sillier moments because it's their silliness that adds the fun to this genre - and I won't go into spoilers here. But beware; the silliness gives way to scenes that may send you to counselling.
Clearly, this is not my cup of blood and I wouldn't recommend the film without qualification: that is, if you enjoy films like Saw (I to VII), you may get a kick out of it. It's not so much a movie as a horror theme park attraction. Where Wolf Creek warned of stranger danger in the Aussie bush, The Loved Ones warns young men to be careful how to reject a girl's advances.
Will white women's groups protest? Is it misogynistic? Is it just a movie intended to activate our adrenaline? (Or in my case, not.) But gee, the target market will love it.
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LOVED ONES, THE (MA)
CAST: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee
PRODUCER: Mark Lazarus, Michael Boughen
DIRECTOR: Sean Byrne
SCRIPT: Sean Byrne
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Chapman
EDITOR: Andy Canny
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Webb
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 4, 2010