The Loved Ones (2010)

Directed By: Sean Byrne
Written By: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel
  Robin McLeavy
  John Brumpton
  Victoria Thaine
The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones is superbly crafted. It’s smart, sly, funny, brutal and cleverly pieced together. It blends a demented sense of humour with a well orchestrated plot and some solid characterizations. Well acted, well directed, well executed; a great watch.

We begin with a car crash. Young Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel) swerves to avoid someone on the road and ploughs his vehicle into a tree, killing his father. Wracked with guilt, he struggles to cope at school, becoming introverted and slightly suicidal. He reluctantly agrees to attend the end of year dance with his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine), casually turning down school weirdo Lola (Robin McLeavy) when she asks to be his prom date. This nonchalant refusal turns out to be a horrific mistake on his part and Lola’s ‘Daddy’ (John Brumpton) decides Brent WILL be his daughter’s prom date, even if they have to nail his feet to the floor.

What follows is a bizarre, sickening, brutal and oddly charming evening in with Lola and “family”, where their own private prom turns into Brent’s own private nightmare that goes from bad to worse to seriously disturbing. Hammers, bleach, drills, flesh-ripping and one horrible pink dress; The Loved Ones starts off brutally and ends just as nastily. It is not vividly sadistic on the scale of Martyrs or A Serbian Film (what is?) but it is still a must for gore fans.

The Loved Ones has a familiar premise – handsome teenager is kidnapped by psychopaths and horribly tortured. But The Loved Ones is anything but familiar. The teenager isn’t your usual preening moron high-schooler, but a troubled loner introvert who you genuinely sympathise with. The psychopaths are not hillbillies or geniuses or brain-scrambled nutters in masks; they’re a father and daughter team dressed for a school prom. The torture dungeon isn’t actually a dungeon, but a living room full of balloons, brightly coloured banners and a glitter ball. It is inventive and disturbing and genuinely compelling work, and worryingly convincing.

As horror debuts go, writer / director Sean Byrne should be very proud of his work. It is carefully crafted; the characters are well rounded and believable, the twists and turns are genuinely surprising and the violence is wince-inducingly effective – power drill in the face, anyone? There is, however, a questionable sub-plot between two other prom-going teenagers, which has literally no affect on the main plot. Is this a deliberate red herring or a clever reflection on what Brent’s prom night could’ve been like had he not been captured by lunatics? Or perhaps it’s simply something to flesh the story out further and increase the running time. Whatever the case it works surprisingly well, proving Byrne has an eye for character and pacing even when something feels entirely unnecessary.

Some may complain The Loved Ones is not challenging or boundary-pushing, but it doesn’t need to be. It is a solid, compelling, exciting horror film and a pleasure to watch from start to finish. Although it sometimes dips into cliché, these moments are rare and certainly not detrimental to the overall quality of the piece.

Although Xavier Samuel (best known for his role in Twilight: Eclipse) does a superb job as the brutalized Brent, it is Robin McLeavy as ‘Princess’ Lola who truly steals the show; she plays the Daddy’s girl prom queen with a quiet fury and barely contained mania – it is superbly realized and utterly depraved. In fact, everyone in The Loved Ones plays their parts superbly.

Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones is an excellent horror film; brutal, twisted, darkly comic and thoroughly enjoyable. Featuring superb performances and some disturbingly memorable scenes, The Loved Ones is highly recommended.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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