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I wouldn't have thought, that I could watch one more torture horror
movie and be entertained by it. "The Loved Ones", however, may be the
last movie of that subgenre to actually be worthwhile. Really
worthwhile, that is.
Much like "Wolf Creek", another Australian horror movie that took an ancient old premise and turned it into a tense and thrilling hellride, "The Loved Ones" is so masterfully crafted, it succeeds where it should fail. The actors - first and foremost the devilish pairing of Robin McLeavy and beady eyed John Brumpton - are just terrific, as is the cinematography and the set pieces. Beautiful bubblegum pink mixes with blood and guts. Director/writer Sean Byrne knows how to balance his first feature film between repulsive scenes and comedic relief.
In the end "The Loved Ones" becomes almost cartoonish and Tarantino-esquire in its climax: The movie has got you rooting so much against the villains that when they finally get theirs, you will howl in satisfaction.
Yep, "The Loved Ones" is the torture movie to end all torture movies. Hopefully, because NOW really everything has been said that needed to be said in that subgenre.
I attended the International Premiere of "The Loved Ones" at the 2009
Toronto International Film Festival. In two words, the film is an
instant classic. Sam Raimi step aside! This Australian
"Carrie"-meets-"Misery" flick is perfectly executed in the hands of
first-time feature director Sean Byrne. Star Xavier Samuel, as the
sullen Brent, is simply mindboggling. He will eclipse many young actors
in this awesome performance. He pulls off a stunning, agonizingly
horrific portrayal of a teen forced to suffer at the hands of classmate
Lola (Robin McLeavy), the jilted would-be prom queen.
The small cast boasts standout performances from Victoria Thaine as Brent's "real" girlfriend Holly and Jessica McNamee as Mia. As Lola's father Eric, John Brumpton is the creepiest villain this side of Michael Myers.
"The Loved Ones" is not for the faint of heart. Visuals are shockingly realistic and beyond compare. Robert Webb's production design is a character unto itself. Bright colors and cheery music are a perfect counterpoint to the horrific action taking place in the claustrophobic setting. Byrne's team fires on all cylinders, crafting a modern horror story that has cult classic written all over it, in blood.
Most of all, though, this is a tour de force for the young Samuel. It's too bad they don't have Oscars for "Best at Pain Endurance." His performance in "The Loved Ones" gives new meaning to the term "tortured actor."
The horror genre is in as sad a state as ever. But it's not for lack of
trying. The talent is there. The fan base is there. The possibilities
are there. The main issue is a lack of common sense on behalf of
producers and distribution companies. As with 2009's fabulous anthology
"Trick 'r Treat", Australian-made "The Loved Ones" is a masterpiece
that screened in numerous festivals to rave reviews from critics and
audiences alike, only to be egregiously ignored by distributors. There
is no way to justify how the much-maligned "Chain Letter" can open
nationwide, while this bloodied gem must sit on the shelf, waiting for
Hollywood to take notice. Writer-director Sean Byrne's auspicious debut
is a cracked-out thrill ride, one that fans of the morbid and
outrageous will eat up once given the chance to actually experience it.
High school senior Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel) is enjoying a leisurely drive with his father, when a mysterious figure appears in the road, causing Brent to crash directly into a tree. His father is killed instantly. Six months later, Brent has found himself in a pit of grievance. Obsessed with suicide and slowly withdrawing from his mother, he finds solace only in marijuana and his caring girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine). When meek wallflower Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to be her date to the end-of-school dance, he politely declines. Huge mistake. Before the end of the night, Brent will be abducted and bound, and discover that he has become a most unwilling guest to Lola's very own dream prom, hosted by her doting father (John Brumpton). The party favors? A rusty fork, a syringe, a hammer, and a power drill.
A quirky, suspenseful blend of 1986's "Pretty in Pink" and 1990's "Misery", "The Loved Ones" is a decidedly grotesque horror-comedy with more on its mind than merely grossing out audiences. By distilling the plot to its bare essentials, and not bogging down the proceedings in unnecessary exposition or explanation, director Byrne has crafted a lean, taut, perversely funny scare-a-thon. On top of that, it is not without relevant social implications, including the repercussions of grief, the indescribable hold that parents and children have on each other, and (yes) the fiery wrath of the high school female.
Byrne clearly has a respect and adoration for the genre, as he seems to have dissected exactly what it is about these films that audiences find appealing. The film is violent, to be sure, but just when it seems that the gore may become gratuitous or over-powering, an inspired stroke of dark comedy undercuts the action. As it stand, "The Loved Ones" recalls the reckless, rowdy spirit of the 80's, a time in which a committed group of filmmakers and actors pushed boundaries with the intent of taking the audience along for the journey. But at the same time, the picture is strikingly modern, forming its own identity with no intention of being a throwback.
Xavier Samuel is excellent as Brent, identifiable despite his character's gloomy condition. When the viewer first meets Brent, he is in an emotional wreck with no apparent hope for recovery. But when he finds himself staring death in the face, he must summon up every ounce of strength he possesses to fight back and survive. Victoria Thaine is a beacon of warmth as girlfriend Holly, who becomes fearful of Brent's whereabouts, and makes an effort to find him. John Brumpton is terrific as Eric Stone, a very sick man whose borderline-incestuous relationship with his daughter has sunk to unfathomable depths.
By and large, though, the film belongs to Robin McLeavy. Intent on making her party a diabolical night to remember, Lola is a villain far more threatening than initially thought possible. Because of the passion and focus she obviously brought to the role, McLeavy's portrayal transcends that of a one-note monster. Instead, she brilliantly interprets Lola as a petulant, psychotic little girl who doesn't take kindly to unrequited love, and sees her torture victims as toys in desperate need of fixing. Her chemistry with Brumpton is ripe with chaotic, demented hysteria. But it also rings true that they love - and need - each other. Lola Stone should join the canon of great horror villains, and that is not merely hyperbole.
The editing by Andy Canny is impeccably judged, keeping the story moving along at a nimble 84 minutes. Simon Chapman's cinematography is crisp, colorful, and drenched in mood. A highlight is the use of a disco ball that hangs in Lola's kitchen, casting romantic sparks of pink and purple over the sobering violence below. The soundtrack is energetic and well-chosen, making unforgettable use of Kasey Chambers' "Am I Not Pretty Enough?". Practical gore effects are used to illustrate the harm done to Brent and others, and they are perfection, always convincing and never once calling attention to themselves. And finally, special mention must go to Xanthe Huebel's costumes, particularly Lola's indelible hot pink dress. In every respect, the film could not look or sound better.
There are so few contemporary horror movies - let alone ones of the B.T.K. variety - that actually have something to say about the dark, unpredictable recesses of human nature, not to mention hold the ability to delight, intimidate, and ultimately satisfy even the most jaded fans. "The Loved Ones" is one such film. It is among the finest, most enjoyable movies the genre has seen in years, and seems destined for cult status. But in order for that to happen, it needs to be seen by the audience it so richly deserves.
NOTE: If you are thinking about looking up the trailer for this film............................ don't. It gives so much away, and part of the fun is the many surprises the movie has in store. If you absolutely must watch the trailer, stop it at exactly 1 minute!
from the first scene The Loved Ones is able to achieve what bigger
budgeted films cannot - clearly defined and appealing characters that
you want to see more of.
the film splits 3 ways - the very serious family drama of the widow and tortured girlfriend - the comic/horror torture porn - and the comic high school formal/prom date. Sean Byrne shows off that he can do it all and succeeds hopping between these styles
the horror thread of this film is what it will marketed on. there is blood, LOTS OF BLOOD but very little gore. disappointingly, much of the violence takes place out of shot or has been cut. it is the weakest part of the film due to some over-acting by Princess whenever she goes 'crazy'. still, it's horrific and compensates by being damn funny
so, SCREW IT! this film is fun to watch!
excellent performances, good soundtrack and smooth production. i saw it at the Sydney Film Festival last night and i was very impressed. my apologies to Jessica McNamee. during a Q&A i referred to her as "thingy who played the goth chick'". she is awesome! her work with Richard Wilson is freakin' brilliant. the disastrous prom date, though loosely connected to the rest of the film, is my favourite part of it
not knowing where this film is going to lead you is half the fun. low-budget non-US films try harder and take risks. The Loved Ones does it all. Perfect date movie. See it!
The Loved Ones is written and directed by Sean Byrne and stars Xavier
Samuel, Robin McLeavy and John Brumpton. An Australian horror, the plot
sees Brent Mitchell (Samuel) kill his father in a car accident.
Stricken with grief he attempts to get on with his life aided by his
girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). But when the quietest girl in
school, Lola Stone (McLeavy), asks him to the prom and he says no, he
finds that he is suddenly the prom king star of a very different sort
Kinda sick, kinda twisted, but an utterly compelling Aussie blood letting exercise that transcends torture porn whilst revelling in a sick sense of humour. With wry observations on teen angst and meditations on grief, loneliness, alienation and forbidden desires, Sean Byrne's film isn't out to solely shock the audience. With an evidently small budget to work from, Byrne has kept things tight and minimalist, this aids the film considerably, adding a sort of realism to the characters before it goes into overdrive as Brent (Samuel superb) finds that politely turning down Lola's (McLeavy a wonderfully monstrous creation) request has opened up (literally) a new world of pain. There's a misstep of a subplot involving another fumbling Goth couple actually going to the real prom, it serves no purpose other than to up the horny angst quota, but this is mostly slick/sick stuff. Backed by a kicking soundtrack, that's headed by the reoccurring Kasey Chambers hit single "Not Pretty Enough", itself creepy personified, The Loved Ones is highly recommended to horror fans who like a bit of torture in their diets. 8/10
It's no surprise that Sean Byrne's relentlessly blood-soaked The Loved
Ones won the Cadillac People's Choice Award at TIFF's midnight
screening. The young Australian writer/director has since been
hard-pressed for free time as many in Hollywood have been vying for his
Since the film's premiere in Toronto, Byrne has been making frequent trips to LA and has been invited to speak with top execs. On this particular trip, Byrne's schedule has been tightly booked from morning until night on every single day thus far, including weekends.
For those who haven't seen The Loved Ones, it is an indie-horror treat. Let's just say, if Carrie from "Carrie" and Jigsaw from "Saw" "wanted to play a game," this film would be the perfect compromise between their approaches. What results is an anti-John-Hughes film that offers a cynical, frightening re-imagining of a high-school prom. The Loved Ones
The film benefits from a cast which is in full-tune with its director. And unlike many horror films today, Byrne's even has something to say. The film's bizarre title provokes us to think about the consequences of unrequited love and, more importantly, the real victims. Of course life would be easier if anyone we fell in love with immediately felt the same way. But in The Loved Ones, love is played as more of a cruel game for all characters.
It may be a bit unusual for American moviegoers to see a horror film carried by actors who speak with Australian accents. Although Peter Jackson was able to earn instant cult-status with his blood-splasher Dead Alive through similar New Zealand accents. Jackson and Byrne already share some in common.
Like Jackson, Byrne seems to be fascinated with shock-horror, fantasy, and even the supernatural. There is also an indie feel to Byrne's work reminiscent of Jackson's earlier low-budget films. So long as the young and talented Byrne is making movies, he just might have to get used to spending more time in Hollywood than at home.
What a ride! Just when I think it can't get worse for the victim,
there's more pain just ahead. I'm on the edge of my seat the entire
second half of the film looking for the redemption, the escape, the
retribution. O M G, does it ever end? Forget zombies, this bitch does
Daddy Dearest is another possible title. I was looking for the incest and the director does a deft job of keeping it 'just right there' without actually becoming... or does he? We see the setup; you can taste the realization. You almost have it in your grasp, but wait...
OK, so the first half is just denouement filler but it gets so much better. This film could have used some American (or maybe Japanese) cinematography and tons more budget yet it still pulls it off. Excellent film work closer to the end setting up the visual struggles that dialog can't.
Overall I would say this film is the little train that could. "I think I can, I think I can..." And then it does. Enjoy.
This movie is a hell of a lot of fun. That's really all there is to it.
Having said that, it isn't without its faults. There will be things you don't understand, characters that aren't fleshed out, side stories that are seemingly pointless and don't really push the plot forward, etc. But really, did you expect that much from torture porn? But perhaps fans of the genre might find The Loved Ones a little unsatisfying, as some gore bits aren't as cringe-inducing as they could've been.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The build up was a little boring, but by the end, man was my heart pumping. I was rooting for the main guy so hard! This is definitely a popcorn flick that doesn't require a lot of critical thinking. The characters are... charming, actors are great, the story unique, execution very nice, and the production design is also surprisingly aesthetically-pleasing. I think horror fans should definitely give this movie a go.
Many horror movies have been made about high school outcasts. High
School in itself can be and is a real horror story for many kids across
the world. "The Loved Ones" tells such a story that goes to extreme and
disturbing lengths. The movie is from and based in Victoria, Australia
and when it comes to bat s**t crazy movies the Aussies really go all
out. Lola (Robin McLeavy) is a seemingly shy and meek girl who gathers
her courage to ask her crush Brent (Xavier Samuel) to the prom. While
Brent who looks a lot like the late Heath Ledger, already has a
girlfriend he is going with. He politely declines her offer and leaves.
Obviously hurt and disappointed Lola who with help from her father have
plans to make it a night to remember.
Ever since Brent was involved in a car accident that took his dad's life he has never been the same. He was driving at the time and blames himself for his death. His mom has also become an emotional zombie. He spends his days smoking pot, listening to heavy metal music and contemplating suicide. His girlfriend Holly is caring and supportive but can only do so much. Just before picking her up for the dance he goes on another one of his lonely contemplative walks, when he is assaulted and kidnapped. If you can connect the dots you'll guess that it was Lola and her father. They bring him to their house and tie him to a chair.
A lot of what we see in the first half of "The Loved Ones" is nothing new, but things do get a lot better. Brent is tortured by Lola and her father. The family along with their creepy comatose almost dead mother is somewhat reminiscent of the crazy family from "Texas Chainsaw" but so many films have gone there it has become quite the horror cliché. At one point Brent does escape, but is quickly rounded up.
There is another storyline going on that really doesn't seem too fit. It follows Brent's BFF Jaime as he takes this Goth chick to the prom. They spend most of the time in the car drinking, smoking pot and being uncomfortable with each other until they start making out. There are some good character moments and the filmmakers do try to link up some of the characters and their "loved ones" towards the end but the whole storyline seems a little misguided. A third story line involves Holly, Brent's mother, and a policeman as they search for Brent.
Lola's torture of Brent starts going to extreme lengths and we also find out a bunch of disturbing back story of the family and what is really going on in their house. Brent is not her first play thing as there have been many others just like him, and she is getting good at it. The movie continues to go down a very dark path and gets just as insane as Lola and her father. Brent throughout his ordeal shows a strong will to live as he fights back against his captors with every chance he gets. The movie comes in at a very trim hour and twenty minutes and although it was made on a tight budget it looks and feels like something that cost a whole lot more. The violence and gore is pretty intense and extremely well done. This is director Sean Byrne feature debut and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. "The Loved Ones" is available on DVD or Blu-ray and is a must see for any horror fan.
"The Loved Ones" is an adequate example of the now well-worn "torture"
genre, but for the most part it's likely to give viewers a feeling of
deja vu. It gets more interesting & amusing as it goes along, but
doesn't have very much plot - or much point to it at all. It's likely
to delight the hardcore horror crowd who favour cruelty and plenty of
gore, in any event. The main asset is a memorable antagonist who's cute
but deadly. We don't ever get to know the victim that well, but it's
not exactly hard to feel bad for him. (One thing must be said: he has a
lot of fight in him!) Also, there's a subplot with two characters that
never really goes anywhere.
Lola, a.k.a. "Princess" (Robin McLeavy, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"), doesn't take rejection well at all. When Brent (Xavier Samuel, "Road Train") declines to take her to the prom, she gets back at him in a major way, by having her dear old daddy (John Brumpton, "Storm Warning") abduct Brent so they can spend the night tormenting him at their own private gathering. Soon he learns just how utterly demented this duo is; meanwhile, people notice he's missing and try to track him down.
If it weren't for a squirm-inducing scene involving a power drill - it's the sound effects that really sell it - and the tour de force acting by McLeavy, there wouldn't be much to recommend this. That is, of course, unless one is partial to this sort of material to begin with. Unfortunately, even for a movie running a scant 85 minutes long, it feels longer than it is. And it's ultimately pretty damn predictable.
Good soundtrack, though.
Six out of 10.
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