Notable Cast: Xavier Samuel, Jessica McNamee, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Richard Wilson
Review: What a fantastically maniacal take on that awkward period of teen love. Mix one part black comedy, one part awkward teen romance, and a whole heaping helping of a torture film and you get The Loved Ones. Talk about daddy’s little girl. This Australian horror film manages to incorporate visuals that were even disturbing enough to make me squirm, some crazy plot development that never lets up, and one of the creepiest families ever depicted in a horror film. Not for the squeamish, The Loved Ones will never let you look at a social outcast the same way ever again.
Lola (McLeavy) is the girl in school that is always in the background. Shy and quiet, she’s never a number one pick. So when she asks her most recent crush Brent (Samuel) to the end of the year dance, it’s no surprise when he turns her down for his girlfriend Holly (Thaine). Filled with jealousy and rage, Lola does what any rejected female teenager would do. Has her father (Wilson) kidnap Brent, knock him out, and bring him back to the house where she has decorated it to have a dance of their own. But when Brent wakes up tied to a chair facing the girl he rejected and the father who will do anything to make his little girl happy, let’s just say Brent is less than excited. He learns escape is not much of an option when he tries, which only leads to the sadistic torture Lola and her father partake in. Brent’s instincts switch from escape to survival as he fights against the evil father daughter duo, praying his mother or girlfriend can figure out where he has ended up. He also learns that the fiendish family may have indirectly played a part with the death of his father, adding a personal touch to the situation. But just when Brent thinks being tortured is enough, the situation takes an intriguingly interesting turn…
This is a seriously unique take on the whole torture film genre. I know a lot of people were turned off by the entire Hostel series, calling it things like grotesque torture porn, but I promise The Loved Ones has a unique story to go along with it. If you’ve ever seen the film Otis, it’s pretty much a reverse where the girl kidnaps the boy instead of creepy man kidnapping the innocent girl. And if you haven’t seen the film Otis but enjoy this film, go find it. But yes, The Loved Ones is graphically violent, enough to the point where it will probably disturb the most reserved of viewers. Just keep that in mind when you’re watching acts that involve a syringe, hammer, knife, and electric-powered drill. You’ve been warned.
As I’ve stated, the subject matter is what made the movie actually watchable. Hostel was literally just about people being tortured for fun. That was it. No real motivation needed, just some really messed up people who enjoyed the kill. The Loved Ones makes it about a rejected teen in love with some serious mental issues. Every high school boy’s nightmare. It’s also about the father who is willing to commit felonies to keep his daughter happy and safe. But the question that arises the whole movie is, who’s in charge? Is it the daughter, who tortures her victims and orders her father to do the dirty work like some goon? Or is it about the father, who is teaching his daughter the “tools of the trade,” if you will, as the torture gets increasingly more gruesome. A lot of stress is put on the father/daughter relationship, which makes things tenfold creepier and even hints at some incestuous feelings at times. It adds a level of instability to the family that makes anything possible.
Also striking was the use of music in the film. Every character had their own theme song in a way in the songs they would listen to. Brent, the mysterious character who has a ton of pent-up feelings and anger become of the death of his father of course is depicted as a metal head by his music choices. It shows the stereotype put on the genre about how listeners have to be characteristically flawed to enjoy it. His girlfriend Holly always has a song playing about how all she wants is to be loved, hinting to the fact that she’ll do anything for Brent. Foreshadowing? Lola also has a descriptive song, called “Am I Not Pretty Enough” by Kasey Chambers. It has lyrics such as “Am I not pretty enough? Is my heart too broken?” and “Should I try it harder? Why do you see right through me?,” commenting on the social pressures put on girls especially to achieve “perfection.” One could argue Lola’s actions stem from the fact that she thinks kidnapping is the only way to be noticed due to her lack of self-confidence, as crazy as that sounds. Sure, it’s easy for the prettiest of girls to have it easy in high school, but what about the ones that feel second-rate to the rest? What are they supposed to do? (I would strongly suggest NOT kidnapping and murdering though.)
There is a ton you can take away from Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones. It works on numerous levels such as being a horror film, a social commentary, and a very, very, very dark comedy. It may be hard to watch for some, but worth it in the end. Robin McLeavy had the part of deranged social misfit/daddy’s girl to a tee, and was increasingly creepy as the film drove on. By the end, she had transformed so much she actually took on the physicality of the monster she had become. For a film that gets momentum as time goes on, it seriously finishes with a curve ball and a bang. Out of all the horror movies I’ve seen this year, this one can easily be crowed king, or queen, of them all.
Final Rating: 8.5 finger lickin’ goods out of 10.