The Loved Ones (2009)

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Director: Sean Byrne

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine

And you thought your prom night was bad

Australia certainly seems a scary place. Wolf Creek and Snowtown show that it’s a place teeming with murderous male psychopaths and now The Loved Ones has reared its pretty little head, giving birth to the most terrifying Sheila ever put on film. Who on Earth would want to do a gap year over there? In all fairness though, the Aussie’s really do knock it out of the park when it comes to horror films and The Loved Ones is no exception. Think Carrie meets Misery with a bit of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre thrown in and you have The Loved Ones.

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It’s a beautifully made film with its loud, throbbing soundtrack and solid direction. It opens in a similar way to another superior Aussie horror, The Babadook with a horrific car crash resulting in the death of a father. The film takes a suitably melancholic mood with our hero Brent being understandably depressed by his father’s passing. In a fleeting moment he makes the worst decision of his life by politely declining mousy Lola’s offer of going to the prom with her. When I was at school, the prom was called an Immac because it was a silly Catholic school who liked to name everything after religious events. I’m sure there were some immaculate conceptions on those days though!

If you’re one of these types who get bored easily by long build-ups (think Wolf Creek) the you’ll love The Loved Ones. It runs at an economical 80 minutes and doesn’t waste much time delving into the action. Within 15 minutes, Brent is kidnapped and tied to a chair with an eerie disco ball floating above. This is when the horror really gets going.

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A lot of the film relies on the sensation performance by Robin McLeavy as Lola. The film is basically a one woman show and rests on her shoulders. Unfortunately for Twilight fans, Xavier isn’t given a lot to do apart from scream, but I can’t imagine Twilight fans liking this one very much. The only time you get to see Xavier with his boobs out is when Lola’s carving her initials into it with a knife. Sorry girls, but there really isn’t a lot to titillate you here, unless you’re into that sort of thing… In which case, get help.

The Loved Ones isn’t one of those pansy horror films which shy away from violence and taboos. In fact the film goes down some terribly dark avenues involving incest and cannibalism, but it’s not done in a cheap or exploitative way. All of the shocking stuff is done to help the story along or add character development rather than just turn the audience’s stomach. There’s a particularly nasty scene involving a drill which will stay with you!

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Alongside Brent’s torture we get the Misery-esque policeman on the hunt for the missing Brent and an odd subplot which involves Brent’s friend going to the dance with an awkward goth girl. Whilst it’s a humorous little side story, it does little to serve the main plot. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to add a little light to the film, but the sublimely disturbed character of Lola is darkly comic enough to stop the film from getting too heavy.

Whilst it’s definitely a solid little horror film, I can’t help but feel like it doesn’t quite reach its full potential. I think the finale feels a little rushed and could’ve easily been extended to be more thrilling like something from Frontiers. It also didn’t feel tragic enough. I would’ve liked to have had a final punch to the gut, but instead it ends rather prematurely and a little too neatly for me. However, wishing a film was longer is never a bad thing. If you’re into your gory psycho horror with added female bite then you can’t go wrong with The Loved Ones. Just remember that if a loopy Aussie lass asks you to the prom, go with her. Not that I’d turn anyone with a pulse down.

eight-out-of-ten

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