A Movie Review on The Loved Ones (2009)
The Loved Ones is a 2009 horror film out of Australia by first time feature film director Sean Byrne. The movie made its run through some of the film festival circuit before landing a limited theatrical run. It was then released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on September 11th 2012. The movie, currently holding a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, is praised for its ability to transcend the torture-porn moniker that some may initially give it, offering up tons of originality and going beyond what is expected.
The movie follows high-school student Brent as he approaches the end of the school year, with tonight being Prom Night. He is approached by Lola, who asks him to go to Prom with her, but to her dismay he rejects her request, telling her that he is going to the school prom with his girlfriend Holly. As the evening approaches Brent gets into an argument with his mom, running out of the house to blow off some steam, while his girlfriend is home getting ready for prom. Things quickly turn into a nightmare when he is knocked out by some man, waking up shortly after strapped to a chair, now wearing a tuxedo while a disco ball rotates above him. Across from his is Lola, her father, and woman they refer to as bright eyes who has apparently been lobotomized. Brent has unwillingly become Lola's prom date and entertainment for the night as Lola and her father subject him to a series of torturous events.
Now, you may be thinking "Well, this sounds like a straight up torture-porn flick," and while it does contain some really grotesque scenes of torture, the movie carries a lot of heart as well. Between scenes of Brent dealing with the horrors of Lola and her father we are shown Holly struggling with the disappearance of Brent. After her and Brent's mother find that his dog he was with before he disappeared was stabbed, leads them to believe that Brent might be in serious trouble. The movie also does a great job with Brent's relentless attempts to escape, showing that he has not lost the will to live, and wants nothing more then to be free with his girlfriend Holly. You really begin to care for Brent, hoping that he will be able to get away of Lola and her father.
The movie also features somewhat of a side-plot following Brent's best-friend and his prom date, which adds some warmheartedness, giving the film a good sense of balance between that and the torture scenes. The torture scenes are pretty gruesome involving knives, a fork, a power drill, nails, needles, salt and hot water. Paired with the originality of the film these torture devices are used very disturbingly. While the movie does not shy away from blood whatsoever, it does not just throw it out there for the sake of using it. It is used to portray the sick and disturbing nature of Lola and her father, without being overly gratuitous.
What surprised me the most with this film was the quality of the performances. All of the actors/actresses do terrific jobs making their characters come across as real, not the fake scripted characters we meet in a lot of movies. Robin McLeavy provides a very disturbing performance as Lola, making herself appear as a real sociopath. Her performance is genuinely creepy. John Brumpton as Lola's father provides an equally disturbing performance, being quite subservient to Lola. The best performances of the movie is Xavier Samuel as Brent, who for most of the movie is rendered unable to speak, and must use facial expressions and grunts to convey how he feels. He is able to deliver a truly believable performance as a man undergoing such tremendous horror.
For all the really great aspects of the movie there a couple of minor gripes about it. My first problem is how have Lola and her father been able to continually kidnap people to stage their own sick version of school dances throughout Lola's life. It just seems pretty unbelievable that stuff like this could have occurred for so long without anyone finding out. The second aspect of the movie that I had a problem with was Brent's best friend and his prom dates side-story. Although I thought it was great, I felt a little disappointed that we weren't given a little more. It took up a good portion of the film, and I feel that they could have given us a little more. Why did his date go home and end up crying in her bedroom? We can make guesses, but I would have rather gotten a straight answer.
Overall I thought the movie was fantastic, with some really original ideas along with some great performances by its actors. While some may call it torture-porn, I feel that the movie is able to transcend this label and provide a deeply disturbing movie with a lot of heart. You will really care for the main characters, wanting nothing more than to see him make it out alive. Highly recommended to those who don't get squeamish easily.
Written and Directed by Sean Byrne
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, and Jessica McNamee.
Rated R. Runtime: 84 Minutes