Unrequited love really sucks. Anyone who is familiar with the sting of having a deep yearning crush on an object of infatuation only to have it rejected in return, is a pain that can be character defining for some people in the manner in which they choose to deal with it. There are those who write songs and create great art. Others channel it into self-improvement, learning from the experience and moving on to the next new interesting person they meet. And then there are some that don’t take these rejections very well at all. For some people the damage is so great, it can bring out the very worst inside of them because their ego becomes too shattered. I think to varying degrees every single person that has ever experienced that pain can relate to those sad, dark feelings. Especially when you’re a high school teenager!
This is the theme of the new Australian horror film The Loved Ones from writer-director Sean Byrne, where we’re introduced to a group of random high school seniors preparing for the upcoming prom. First we meet Brent (Xavier Samuel), who is overcoming the recent death of his father due to an auto accident they suffered together while he was at the wheel, which was an attempt to avoid hitting a bloody, half-naked boy walking in the middle of the road. This has caused his mother to suffer a complete emotional collapse, so he finds escape in drugs, metal music and cutting himself with the razor he wears as a necklace. Despite his many psychological issues, he has a very attractive and supportive girlfriend named Holly (Victoria Thaine) whom he plans to take to the upcoming prom. Brent’s best friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) is your typical dork who scores it big when he asks the detached but sexy, Goth-hottie Mia (Jessica McNamee) to the dance and she agrees. Finally there’s Lola (Robin McLeavy), who’s one of those meek, mousy girls that fails to make a blip on the high school dating radar. She works up the courage to ask Brent to the prom, but he politely refuses her. Big. Mistake. Before he knows it, he’s been whacked on the skull, kidnapped by Lola’s adoring daddy (John Brumpton) and tied to a chair in a creeepy old house that’s been decorated to look like a school dance, complete with banners, a mirrored disco ball and glitter. Turns out he’s the prom King and Lola’s his Queen, whether he likes it or not. And if he doesn’t there are hammers, nails, syringes, power drills and a cellar containing something he doesn’t want to know anything about.
I for one am sick to death of the torture porn genre and am looking forward to its demise. I like the Hostel films, but I dislike about everything else that I’ve seen because it’s just not scary or fun or imaginative, only gross and disturbing. The Loved Ones definitely flirts with the torture porn thing a bit, but it’s more along the lines of the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left than Human Centipede II and A Serbian Film. There’s some nasty stuff involving steak knives hammered through bare feet and power drills and boiling water used for lobotomizing, but the gruesome carnage is juxtaposed throughout the film with the awkward and somewhat sweet prom date between Jamie and Mia. While one friend has the date from Hell, the other one has the time of his life. Which is probably why I like The Loved Ones. It’s like a really fucked up version of Pretty in Pink, in which Molly Ringwald is a total psycho who gets Harry Dean Stanton to abduct Andrew McCarthy and torture him while Jon Cryer takes the Ally Sheedy character from The Breakfast Club to prom.
This movie really belongs to Robin McLeavy as the crazy-as-fuck Lola. She gives such an amazing performance and creates a deviously vicious character that the audience can really root against, much like Kathy Bates in Misery. Her intense focus is very scary and there are many little nuances in her acting that keep Lola from becoming a one-dimensional monster. Her very unhealthy relationship with her “loving” father and the hatred she has for her abused mother are some of the most disturbing parts of the film. The audience is also provided with grim information that would suggest that Lola has been doing this sort of thing with her secret crushes for quite awhile. She’s a really wonderfully terrifying creation. The Loved Ones is one of the best examples of Ozploitation to come out of the land down under since Wolf Creek and I would give it a look if you like supporting original horror films.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars