Australia (dir. Sean Byrne)
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson
Synopsis: In order to avoid a ghostly figure in the road, high school senior Brent Mitchell wraps his car around a tree, killing his father. Constantly confronted by his mother’s emotional collapse after the accident, Brent escapes into a marijuana fueled world of loud metal music to block the pain and guilt. Dejected and out of sorts, he has a shot at happiness with his girlfriend Holly, a grounded, caring girl with drop dead good looks, a dream date for the high school prom. But his plans are thwarted by a disturbing series of events that take place under a mirrored disco ball, involving pink satin, glitter, syringes, nails, power drills and a secret admirer. Brent has become the prom king at a macabre, sadistic event where he is the entertainment.
Review: So I finally get a chance to see “The Loved Ones”… and oh boy was it ever worth the wait! Despite the trailer revealing 90% of the film plot and criminally spoiling the meaning behind the film’s title, there was still quite a bit of unexpected nastiness oozing out of this delightful little indie horror film. A superb cast, mixed with a great soundtrack and beautiful cinematography makes “The Loved Ones” the type of film that has “instant horror classic” written all over it. And despite the review on the movie poster indirectly comparing “The Loved Ones” to “Wolf Creek” (likely due to the sole fact that both films are Australian) do not be fooled. This ain’t no “Wolf Creek”; this is more “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” than anything else, and yet at the same time it is its own movie . You certainly feel the influence of other American films on it, but it can neither be considered an homage nor a rip-off. This is probably the best Australian horror film released to date (sorry, “Lake Mungo”).
If you make the mistake of watching the trailer for “The Loved Ones” before actually seeing the film, you may be more than a little disappointed to find out that the trailer is not only comprised of the best parts of the film, but serves as an abridged version of the film itself. Way to ruin the movie for us guys! I guess they really felt they needed to sell the film, although this is the kind of film that sells itself by virtue of word of mouth alone. Spoiling a significant portion of the film in the trailer is completely inexcusable, SO DON’T WATCH THE TRAILER, OKAY!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!111111111
Those who’ve (unfortunately) already seen the trailer will know that “The Loved Ones” is the story of psycho teenager Lola Stone’s quest to find the perfect prom date and construct the perfect prom night. Her creepy, borderline incestuous father (“daddy”) helps her kidnap, torture, and lobotomize a series of potential suitors which eventually become the aforementioned “loved ones”. Lola’s current prom king catch is a suicidal teen, whose depression is the result of a car accident that killed his father and was partly his fault (we actually later find out Lola is to blame for the accident, but you’ll most likely figure that out for yourself anyways). The B side to this gruesome little tale is a side story involving our aforementioned suicidal teen’s best friend and his prom night with the high school goth hottie. This B side, as “charmingly” funny as it tries to be, feels a lot like it was an excised vignette from “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break”, not that that’s a bad thing – but it somehow interrupted the flow of the movie, providing too much dark humour where there already was more than enough to go ’round.
In typical Aussie horror fashion, this film is rife with breath-taking vistas and wonderful visuals that inadvertently (or perhaps, intentionally) capture the desolate loneliness and stark beauty of the Australian country side. “Wolf Creek”, “Coffin Rock”, and “Lake Mungo” are other prime examples of this, and it’s great to add another film to the list that doesn’t have a geographic feature attached to its name.
Beautiful Australian scenery aside, “The Loved Ones” delivers a fantastic mix of what some might label as torture porn and black comedy. Though I must protest the use of “torture porn” as a label for this film since the psychopathic nature of our villainous teenage Lola (played to perfection by a delightfully vicious Robin McLeavy,who I hope to see more of soon) completely (and I mean, completely) eclipses the torture pornesque set-up of the film’s plot. And this is where the old plot versus story debate comes into play. Plot-wise, this film is torture porn (especially when you take it at face value). However the film’s story absolutely classifies “The Loved Ones” in the psychopath genre – right up there with “Psycho” (yeah, that’s right… I’m comparing “The Loved Ones” to Hitchcock’s “Psycho”!). Furthermore, you get this great allegory for survival and the preciousness of our lives (both to our selves and our loved ones), something the hero prom king (Brent) literally gets drilled into his head over the course of the film (lol). In many ways, ‘The Loved Ones” is a metaphor for the painful process of healing and moving on with your life in the face of supreme tragedy and absolute suffering. And before you start bitching about how “Saw” also teaches you about how great life is and how you shouldn’t take it for granted as well, yadda, yadda, yadda… let me just say that our hero suffers through much, much more than the ridiculous Jigsaw traps. Plus the analogy between torture and living through the hard parts in life is much more subtle than it is in most American films (again, “Saw” is the first example I can think of).
What I absolutely love most about this film is how downright, fucking off the charts crazy Lola is. That scene near the end where she is walking across a field with a butcher knife and her cute, pink scrapbook full of “memories” (photos of her former “loved ones”) while singing her “Am I Not Pretty Enough?” song is an absolute scream. And at the end where she is literally dragging her shattered body down a road using that same butcher knife to help drag herself along is pure psychopathic delightfulness. She is the best kind of crazy.
Earlier in the film she also hosts a dinner party that rivals that of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in terms of horrific brutality , so she really out-crazies even the Hewitt family. And her creepy, borderline incestuous relationship with “daddy”? Fucking twisted is all I have to say to that. The mom really takes the cake too, although its more like how the Daddy and Lola treat the Mom (or, “Bright Eyes”, as they refer to her) takes the crazy cake. It’s right up there with the Grandpa from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” family dinner, and that’s not praise I give out easily (or at all really).
And big, big, big points for the ending too. There’s a cut away from a very long, dead silent tracking shot of Lola watching a car back into her, and then just when we think the movie is over because all we get is a face-full of blackness, we get to see the aftermath of that car backing into her. A fittingly brutal end for a brutal girl. The editing could not have been any less perfect.
Really the movie can only be blamed for being too short, but even that is not sufficient enough criticism to tack onto the film. Byrne could have shown more torture, (a hell of a lot more torture) but the fact that he didn’t really speaks highly of his decision to make the film more centered on story. This is a great example of indie horror film-making that sadly gets overlooked in lieu of flashier, bigger budgeted fare which solely on the surface resembles this type of film-making. Those quick to dismiss it as torture porn are dead wrong. WRONG! Please go see this movie. The only reason you shouldn’t is if you were freaked out by that cellar scene in “The Road”. You know the one…