Sunday, October 19, 2014

#1,525. The Loved Ones (2009) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Sean Byrne

Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine

Tag line: "You don't have to die to go to hell"

Trivia: Robin McLeavy prepared for the role of Lola by researching the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer

I usually have a high threshold for gory violence, but there was a point in 2009’s The Loved Ones where I had enough. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a tremendous motion picture; a tense, often unsettling film that had me poised on the edge of my seat. Still, the brutality is so relentless, so extreme, that I occasionally had to look away.

On the last day of school, Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) asks classmate Brent (Xavier Samuel) to accompany her to the end-of-year dance. Unfortunately, Brent already has a date: his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). But Lola isn’t about to take “no” for an answer. 

Knocked unconscious by Lola’s doting father (John Brumpton), Brent is dragged to the Stone homestead, which has been decorated to look like a dance hall. It seems that Lola’s father - who will do anything to make his little girl happy - is hosting his own shindig, and Brent is Lola’s “date”. Continuously tortured and beaten by his captors throughout the evening, Brent tries his damnedest to escape, but the more he struggles to free himself, the harsher his “punishment”.

The violence in The Loved Ones is tough to watch, mostly because it’s inflicted upon someone who hasn’t done anything to deserve it. Not only is Brent an innocent (he wasn’t the least bit nasty or condescending when he informed Lola he couldn’t go with her to the dance), but is something of a victim himself. As the film opens, Brent is learning how to drive, and his dad is the passenger. Suddenly, a bloodied young man darts into the street, causing Brent to lose control of the car and crash into a tree, killing his father instantly. 

This makes what happens to Brent over the course of The Loved Ones all the more tragic, and the torture he’s subjected to is, at times, quite awful.  At one point, Brent manages to escape, only to be chased down and re-captured. To ensure he stays put, Lola’s father nails Brent’s feet to the floor... with a couple of steak knives!

Robin McLeavy turns in a remarkable performance as Lola, the psychotic teen with an adolescent’s mentality who always gets her way. Also strong is John Brumpton as Lola’s dad, an emasculated figure who is nonetheless capable of doing terrible things. The dynamic between these two characters, complete with an underlying sexual tension, is as fascinating as it is grotesque. 

Equally as impressive is how writer / director Sean Byrne ties everything together before the movie ends; a seemingly unrelated side story, in which Brent’s pal Jamie (Richard Wilson) accompanies the distant and strange Mia (Jessica McNamee) to the school dance, isn’t as random as it first appears. All of these elements blend wonderfully, making The Loved Ones a movie I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. 

Odds are, I’ll watch it again myself.

But not for a while.


Unknown said...

This one took me a while to get into. It started out great, but somehow I started loosing interest as the movie progressed. On a second viewing, it all came together perfectly for me. It's not a masterpiece, but I predict it will become a horror classic over the years (if it hasn't already).

Dr. Watson said...

Heard about this film when it came out, then forgot about it. This will be the next film I watch.

James Rodrigues said...

Absolutely loved this one. The way it all came together was deftly handled, and fantastically gruesome. A wonderful addition to the horror genre.