Still troubled by the recent death of his father, Brent (Xavier Samuel) at least seems to have found some happiness in his relationship with his girlfriend. So naturally he politely turns down the offer from quiet girl Lola (Robin McLeavy) to attend the end-of-year school dance with her instead. Unfortunately for Brent, Lola is seriously unhinged and with the assistance of her equally unhinged father Eric (John Brumpton) kidnaps Brent in order for her to still have her special night. As Brent is increasingly humiliated and abused, fans of the genre will be delighted at the grotesque intensity and disturbing humour of this Australian horror by writer/director Sean Byrne.
The Loved Ones follows in the tradition of films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Deliverance and Australia’s previous horror hit Wolf Creek, of exploiting the fear that on the fringes of civilisation live an extreme form of poor-white trash who get their kicks from torturing and murdering whoever comes their way. Added to the mix is the vengeful-hysterical-woman tradition where a slighted women (or in this case one whose derangement makes her falsely believe herself to have been slighted) takes violent action against the offending male. In the case of Lola she also has the added perversity of possessing more than a hint of an Electra complex.
While The Loved Ones does have a degree of similarity to torture porn films such as the Saw franchise and Hostel, it isn’t as depressingly bleak or cruel. That’s not to say that The Loved Ones isn’t exploitive, gut-churning and nasty – it is all those things – but it delivers the shocks and scares in a way that is inventive enough to make the experience of seeing the film a lot of fun rather than an ordeal. There is also some respite from Brent’s suffering when the film switches to a tenuously linked, yet enjoyable, subplot about Brent’s stoner best friend.
There are key moments in The Loved Ones where Byrne really takes the shocks to the next level of intensity and a big part of the effectiveness of such moments is the plausibility of what is happening. You will gasp in horror at the prospect of what is about to happen and then you will giggle in delight that the film actually carries out what it threatens to.
© Thomas Caldwell, 2010
Double pass ticket giveaway closed – congratulations to Ingrid (Fitzroy North VIC), Josh (Coburg VIC), Cam (Clifton Hill VIC), Xanthe (Clearview SA), Den (Noble Park VIC), Adrian (Brunswick West VIC), Ben (Stafford QLD), Frank (Prahran VIC), Glenn (Fitzroy VIC) and Jason (Brunswick VIC)