Australia is a very large place. It would be easy to get up to some very bad things without anyone finding out because so much of it is a big empty wasteland. America too has a whole lot of land with not a lot of people and has explored what some people have got to in various different horror movies. It usually involves kidnapping other people, cooking them and eating them. Australia on the other hand, as The Loved Ones shows, will almost certainly follow suit in the kidnapping stage but then they’ll throw you a party. Not one you will enjoy mind…
The Loved Ones concerns a handsome long, flowing haired dude, not going to the prom with the nerdy girl who asks him out. He is then knocked out by her father so she can have her own prom at home with the boy of her dreams. Thats how the film is promoted anyway and that’s kind of all you need to know. If you want to see the film then perhaps its time to stop reading this review as its hard to avoid moderate spoilers from here on in. Lets just say The Loved Ones is one of the good ones.
Still here? Okay, well the thing is that basic plot is true. However the dude is not Mr Popular at school, or at least has no interest in being so. He is grieving and hating himself over the death of his father, for which he blames himself. Instead of being focused on his pretty girlfriend, he’s more interested in causing himself harm. Xavier Samuel who plays the lead, doesn’t really have much dialogue in the film, partly because he has bleach injected into his neck, but also because, I think, he just doesn’t want to talk to anyone. When he is abducted by the girl, Lola played with savage gusto by Robin McLeavy, and her father (John Brumpton) in many ways he is the worst person they could have taken. Not only does he rarely react in an expected way to the torture they put him through (apart from when they throw salt in his wounds which is fair enough), but he also has such self loathing that when they caught him he was thinking of killing himself anyway.
Lola and her pop have an, er, interesting relationship to say the least. Taking Samuel as her date for the night seems almost by the by when in fact she only really has eyes for one man. Shes a bit of a daddy’s girl if you know what I mean. He returns the favour, watching her get changed into her prom gown, barely able to contain himself. Its pretty grim, but then not as grim as the damage they inflict upon Samuel.
A variety of tools are used to nail, slice and drill the poor guy. They particularly have a penchant for the power drill, and as the third person in their house, a woman called “Bright Eyes” will attest, frontal lobotomies seem to be their thing. However apart from the drilling, which even then is carefully framed to not see too much (although the sound of grinding skull is more than enough), you don’t see a lot of what happens to Samuel. This is because the film frequently cuts away from the main action to the secondary characters.
Samuel’s best mate Jamie, a podgy little rocker, has asked out the hot weirdo goth girl to the prom and we spend a not inconsiderable amount of time finding out what they get up to. This mostly involves the what we’d all do under the circumstances: drink vodka, smoke weed and get it on. But this coming of age aspect of the film is miserable because the goth girl isn’t so much a emo type as a girl dressed in black suffering from her own grief, getting smashed and fucking the fat kid in attempt to numb the pain. This is all interlinked with the main plot eventually, and is both entertaining and sad, but I can’t help the feeling that it breaks up the tension when what we really need to ro rack it up. Just as Lola’s dysfunctional family party seems to be getting more and more horrific for Samuel we cut away to these kids, of Samuel’s mum, or his girlfriend, or the sheriff, which is fine ,and adds a richness to a story, but I think the price it pays is too high for the story we SHOULD be focused on.
I also have to say, I was a little bit disappointed that Lola was not trying to get revenge for a spurned love but was merely just a typical nut job, more interested in power tools and power games than trying to even out the balance between the beautiful people and the geeks and freaks.
But these aren’t big quibbles. Really we should only hope that there are as many horror movies which can tighten the screw as much as this, even with the cutaways. Robin McLeavy makes a great screen monster, she manages to get on the side of a hateful character that we, as the audience are routing for to die as horribly as possible. And Samuel as her victim, and maybe her nemesis, gives as good as he gets while saying virtually nothing at all. And I’ll say no more now too.