SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 10, 2010
Director: Sean Byrne
Writer: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson, John Brumpton
At some point in the recent past, we find Brent (Xavier Samuel – scheduled to portray Riley in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and his father driving along a rural road debating about their respective generation’s music taste – it’s the typical scenario, the music they each love is considered to be horrible noise to the other. A bloody young man is suddenly in front of their car and Brent careens the car into a tree. The accident leaves Brent emotionally scarred because his father died as a result of the crash.
In the present, Brent and his best friend Sac (Richard Wilson) are discussing their plans for their upcoming high school dance. Brent’s girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine) has her house to herself for the weekend (so we all know what their after-dance plans will be); and Sac scores the local goth chick, Mia (Jessica McNamee), as his date. So, the boys are ready for some action…
Then…a seemingly awkward girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy), also asks Brent to the dance, but Brent lets her know that he already has a date…
Next thing we know, the Brent is kidnapped and he finds himself restrained in the strange and demented environs of Lola’s house. (It seems Lola did not take Brent’s “no” for an answer.) At this point, The Loved Ones drastically switches gears from a coming-of-age drama about a psychologically scarred teen attempting to cope with life to one hell of a blood thirsty torture film. Every time you think things cannot get any creepier with Lola’s household, the creepy quotient is increased tenfold.
Maybe it is just due to regional sensibilities, but the Australian The Loved Ones seems to owe a lot to Peter Jackson (pre-LOTR of course). In fact, I would not question if someone were to tell me that Jackson made The Loved Ones between Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures. It is also difficult not to notice a little of Brian DePalma’s Carrie tossed in here and there for good measure. In fact, I don’t think it would be a stretch to interpret Lola as a preemptive incarnation of Carrie – Lola does not wait to be teased before she goes psycho (the biggest question is: what is Lola’s motivation?). This is around the time that I should probably mention that Robin McLeavy is pitch-perfect as Lola.
Simon Chapman’s cinematography is brilliant and the acting is precisely perverse. At some points the violence really pushes one’s stomach to the limit – challenging the viewer not to blink. The horrors done with forks, knives, hammers and drills alone are enough to make even the most adept horror film aficionado shriek like a little girlie mouse.
The Loved Ones, a brilliantly creepy feature-length debut from writer-director Sean Byrne, is sure to please some of the more discerning horror fans out there with its brains, creativity and visual panache. From my estimation The Loved Ones is prone to become a “midnight movies” cult favorite ala Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, and Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and Bad Taste.
(Also check out our interview with Sean Byrne and Robin McLeavy.)