The Loved Ones is a 2009 Australian horror, written and directed by Sean Byrne, which follows the tale of a young girl who gets rejected by her desired prom date. As the old saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and for Lola Stone, not getting what she wants isn't an option. The spoiled princess enlists the help of her loving daddy to kidnap her prince and bring him back to their place for a mock prom. Except, their version of prom includes a whole lot more torture.
Lola is the typical daddy's little princess but slightly more unhinged. Not to mention, her father is a little crazy himself. Together, their dysfunctional relationship destroys families as well as the lives of vulnerable young men. When Brent turns Lola down, he never expected he'd be paying for it in blood and when Lola takes out her revenge, she never expected to get a fight.
The film was just released in the United States after much critical praise for Byrne and his debut addage to the horror genre. The film pays homage to horror classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Misery, and The People Under the Stairs with a mixture of newer films like Hostel.
The Loved Ones is heavy on violence and gore but the way in which the scenes are directed, full of bright colors like hot pink, makes them appear beautiful. The soundtrack is an added bonus that gives the movie a psychedelic, happy feeling despite the depressing subject matter. Plus, the cover is super pretty.
Robin McLeavy gave a chilling and relentless performance as Lola, perfectly exhibiting personality traits and actions of an indivudual with serious mental issues. Her character was presented as very unsympathetic and full-on evil as she brutally tortures her victim in a playful manner. Mcleavy's girlish giddiness made the characer more frightening because it showed audiences how emotionally unhinged she was and how little human life meant to her. The entire situation was a game to her, which she made clear when expressing her past conquests to Brent all with a devious smile across her face.
Although Lola was meant to be despised, I couldn't help but like her for being so badass. Seeing a female character in a powerful situation usually suited for a man--no matter how awful her ruling actually may be--was refreshing. McLeavy's facial expressions and her eyes that seduced the camera, made her a very powerful character to me. I was fascinated by her, her beliefs, and her actions and didn't want to take my eyes off of her. Not to mention, the subtle looks she would exchange with her father, played by John Brumpton, succeeded in creeping me out, despite their quickness.
McLeavy is what made the film worth watching for me as she was definitely the best character in the movie. Brumpton's portrayal of daddy was second because he came off as very timid and quiet but whenever he had to take care of business for his little girl, he made sure to do it and make it count. His character reminded me of serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer (which the murders are based on), who on the outside looked like a shy and gentle man but on the inside was deeply disturbed and itching to act out his sadistic desires.
Xavier Samuel, who played Brent, didn't disappoint as the victim, either. He was in a difficult situation throughout the movie and had to convey all of his fears and anger through his eyes and he succeeded in making the audience feel his pain. The tragedy that occurs in his life prior to his kidnapping, as well as the depression he experienced, nicely ties into his story arc. The audience sees his character fully transform and realize that he wants to live and he wants to fight for his survival, which is one good thing that came out of the situation for him.
Although The Loved Ones is an entertaining and stunningly beautiful horror film, the hype it was given is what contributed to its downfall--for me, anyway. I am not saying that I hated the movie, because I didn't. With all of its positive reviews and statements regarding it as the best horror movie of the year, I was expecting a lot more from what I was given.
The torture in the film was creative because Byrne took certain instances from the real-life crimes of Dahmer and Robert Berdella, however, once that was taken out of the equation, the film didn't feel completely new for me. I understand that Byrne was paying homage to Texas Chainsaw but it seemed as though a lot of what happened in the film was a rehashing of older tales. Not to mention, there were several horror cliche's thrown in the mix, such as the cop who investigates a scene without calling backup as well as stupid character decisions that should have been avoided.
Speaking of endings, this film's ending was almost anti-climactic. We see our victim go through hell and back and we expect this battle to erupt on screen but none of that really happens. It was just an ending with a neat bow tied onto it and fade to black that left me feeling slightly cheated.
The idea and the main characters of the film were perfect. I was entertained all of the way through, despite some minor hesitations I had about particular issues. However, those things can easily be overlooked because the film pretty much gave me what I wanted: a fun ride. It was an excellent first film for Byrne who clearly has a knack for filmmaking--he just has to work more on his storytelling.
Some may argue that this horror is nothing but torture porn and I would strongly disagree. Yes, there are several instances of torture in the movie but I wouldn't define it as a torture film. We don't get to see a lot of the torture that is inflicted upon Brent; we get to see the excited reactions from Lola and Daddy as they examine their work of art. The color in the film makes the situation more bearable to watch because it doesn't feel like a torture flick.
The Loved Ones is more a story of losing the will to live and regaining it back again as well as a young girl coming to terms with her daddy-issues. A lot of violence, sex, and drugs is nicely sprinkled throughout.
This is an awesome and entertaining horror film with a badass female as the villain. I wouldn't go as far as saying it was the greatest horror of all time but it was extremely fun to watch. Try to go into it without listening to others perceptions, although, that will probably be hard to do after reading this review as well as countless others on horror sites.