The Loved Ones ****½
High school senior Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel) swerves to miss a bloodied figure on a deserted country road and slams his car sideways into a tree, killing his father in the passenger seat. Six months later Brent is in a dark place, troubled by guilt over the death of his father and unable to cope with his mother’s fragile emotional state. However things aren’t all bad, he has a wonderful girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine) and a good mate Paul (Andrew S. Gilbert), who has just scored a date to the school dance with Mia (Jessica McNamee). Out of the blue, Brent is asked to the dance by quiet girl Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy), he politely declines, unwittingly setting in motion his worst nightmare.
Taking a walk with his dog before the dance, Brent is drugged and kidnapped; he wakes dressed in a suit, tied to a chair in a rural kitchen which is crudely decorated for a party. Staring at him around the table is a lobotomised old woman, an odd looking man and Lola… she’s dressed for the dance.
Brent is the guest of honour and is made aware very early on what Lola and her father (John Brumpton) have in store for him… a syringe, hammer, knife and drill are on the menu.
It’s difficult to take a well worn idea and breathe new life into it. Sean Byrne has done that and more with ‘The Loved Ones’. Byrne has crafted a fantastic script that is full of warmth, violence and dark humour. He gives us believable characters, Brent, his mother and girlfriend anchor the movie with emotional depth; best friend Paul and his hilarious date with Mia provide some wonderfully awkward comic relief, and of course Lola and her father deliver the tension and violence.
The actors are all perfectly cast, Xavier Samuel is excellent as Brent, his portrayal of the insular, depressed teenager who realises through the pain that he actually has so much to live for is fantastic. Robin McLeavy and John Brumpton share an incredibly disturbing dynamic as Lola and ‘Daddy’; she’s terrifyingly real as sadistic, unhinged Lola, he is more restrained, but no less frightening as the doting dad, they play off each other perfectly. The characters are so convincing that when Lola says: “Bring the hammer Daddy” we wince at the possibilities.
Without wanting to reveal too much about how the movie unfolds, there are some incredible scenes of violence and gore that will satisfy any horror fans bloodlust. Lola’s creative use of a fork is one of the more disturbing scenes. Byrne keeps the action moving along, inter-cutting between the prom, Holly and his mothers attempts to find him and of course Brent’s problems. Byrne keeps you engaged and focused on the present throughout so when the movie shifts gears the effect is shocking, brutal and has a last half hour that you’re unlikely to forget.
The movie is taut, tense and doesn’t overstay its welcome at 85 minutes. It’s been compared to numerous horror movies, but is an original take on the kidnap/torture genre and is destined for cult status.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any Good: 5 out of 5 stars