Brent (Xavier Samuel) is an emotional wreck who is dealing with a recent loss. And just when you thought his life couldn’t get shittier, it does when he turns down an invitation to a school dance from fruity-hottie Lola (Robin McLeavy). It seems that what Lola wants, Lola gets; no matter the cost and she’s not going to stop now.
I’ve been avoiding any type of torture porn film in recent time, and after seeing that this film was finally coming after 2 years in hell, I didn’t think that my mind was going to change. Thankfully, it did and I can only wish that this type of horror movie becomes the new “type” that everybody goes out to see on a weekly basis.
Writer/director Sean Byrne starts this film off as if it was your typical high school, teen film. Plenty of talks about sex, booze, and prom night, plenty of kids making out, and plenty of that teenage angst that we always see kids going through. This bothered me because it wasn’t all that interesting and they really tried focusing on Brent’s emotional issues he’s having here about his dad being dead in a car crash, that he drove. It’s not wrong to try and give your character’s some depth here and there but the film really felt like it was forcing all of this dramatic shit down our throats, and it got to a point of where I just wanted some crazy, psycho shit to go down like I knew I was going to get.
However, things all of a sudden change around once Brent gets kidnapped by Lola and her daddy, and this is when the film really begins to pick itself up. It goes from one of those syrupy, teen movies to all of a sudden being one of these crazy, runaway, South of the road horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it blew my mind away and kept my adrenaline up. Of course we all know that this guy gets tortured and treated like total shit by these two nut-balls, but what sets it apart from anything else is the fact Byrne isn’t trying to just feed us a bunch of squirmy moments, just for Pete’s sake. It actually fits into the story and kept on hitting me harder, harder, harder, and harder each and every time this guy got treated worse. He doesn’t show all of the torture, but whenever he does, it’s almost as brutal as the shit he is suggesting half-of-the-time as well.
I also thought Byrne’s writing was something that more horror writers from Hollywood should pay more attention to, and use it for themselves actually. The film starts off very predictable and obvious, but once the torture angle kicks in, I had no idea what was going to happen next. I seemingly thought anything was possible, which it was, and that this was a film that wouldn’t stop to shock me and keep me glued to the screen. That’s what kept me involved with this flick, was that I couldn’t tell what was going to happen next and that I was given a character that I actually care about. Even though all of that character development for Brent seemed cheap and obvious, I still knew this guy was a good person and definitely didn’t deserve all of the torture he was getting so I definitely rooted for him the whole way through. Also, a nice couple of spots of dark humor here and there just to even things out.
The only thing really stopped me from absolutely loving this film, was the random subplot they had here about a bumbling kid, trying to get it in with some hot, Gothic chick. There were definitely some funny parts for this story but it didn’t do much for the film or it’s story, and seemed like it was more or less just used to switch to whenever the film didn’t feel like focusing on all of the torture. It barely even tied up with the rest of the story, so it really could have just been left out and focused more on how shitty Brent was getting treated. That’s just an idea though, folks.
Xavier Samuel is pretty good as Brent and makes it easy for us to care about him, and just seems like your average, everyday, angsty kid wearing a Metallica shirt. For reasons I don’t want to spoil, he doesn’t talk that much but he expresses everything he’s going through with his face and it feels and looks real, and sometimes make you feel the pain that he’s feeling. Actually, it definitely did that for me and numerous times I just kept on clinching my stomach.
John Brumpton plays Lola’s freak-o dad that just not seem right in the head, and goes throughout the whole movie with a boner for his daughter. However, he doesn’t seem over-the-top at all and just seems like another, run-of-the-mill, kind of nut you would usually see on the side of the road begging for money, and the type of dude you do not want baby-sitting your kids late at night. As the film continues to go on and the torture starts to get worse, Robin McLeavy‘s performance as Lola gets all of the more insane and she definitely makes you feel like this chick, and probably will do anything and everything to hurt this dude to the brink of total mutilation. Maybe that was a bit graphic, but Lola is such a freakin’ scary character and plays up that whole “quiet, weird girl” aspect of her, up to the tippity-top and it’s perfect.
Consensus: The Loved Ones mixes ideas and formulas from torture porno’s, teen movies, dark comedies, and horror flicks, to give us a satisfying revenge movie that may start off perfectly, but by the end gets more and more tense as the film’s story starts to become more unpredictable. Take not Hollywood: Australian cinema is where it’s at.
If this was a series on the National Geographic channel, I’d definitely watch it. Or at least try to.
Martin (Willem Dafoe), a skilled mercenary is sent to the jungles of Tasmania to bring evidence of a creature known to be extinct, the famed Tasmanian Tiger. Posing as a scientist, he arrives at the house of a family whose father has become missing hunting for the same animal.
Nature thrillers aren’t the best kind of thrillers out there. ‘The Grey’ was pretty good but usually, these kinds of thrillers just end up being uninteresting without any real thrills. This is a little bit in between.
I actually don’t even think you can categorize this as a thriller because it’s basically all about a man finding something inside of himself to give the film this character-based drama feel, but then have this thriller premise build around it as well. Director Daniel Nettheim did a great job here with setting the feel and atmosphere of this flick. Many scenes are just dedicated to total silence where we see Dafoe in the woods making traps, setting up, and doing all of this other cool, hunting stuff but all to the sounds of nothing else other than the birds and wind. There’s a very placid feel to this whole film that may take awhile to get used to but it still works and keep you interested as to what’s going to happen next with this dude.
Let me also not forget to mention that this film is very beautiful to look at but not in a pretty way. I have never seen Australia look this certain way in a film before than it does here. There are so many shots of the dangerous and dark forest that Dafoe goes into just about everyday and they add a lot more to the mood than anything else. I never thought that this forest was dangerous but then again, I never thought it was a happy place with Care Bears skipping and dancing everywhere either. Just a very mysterious and strange place to be in. Thanks cinematography!
Despite how good the cinematography and pace may be, the film still has its problems when it tries to be a character-based drama. Everything in the woods worked, but when Dafoe started hanging out with this family and getting attached to them, the film really does falter into just trying to finding more ways to have us sympathize with this dude more. Since the movie is so quiet and placid, the scenes that are supposed to be very emotional and touching don’t do either of these things. They are just sort of there to provide more of a background for our dude and even though I don’t mind a film trying to develop its character no matter how mysterious or strange he may be, at least try to do it in a way that isn’t so obvious.
Other than the moments in the forest, this film also doesn’t have any real tension. The real life tension between Green activists and tree loggers is here but they show up only to bring more tension to this flick and it doesn’t do much at all. It’s an important rivalry to show, and maybe a lot better to show in a documentary, but here, it seems unneeded as if the film couldn’t rely on the scenes in the forest to bring tension to this flick. Damn, I never realized how much I liked the scenes of just Dafoe in the forest.
Willem Dafoe is definitely the right choice for this quiet and mysterious character Martin. Dafoe in almost flick he does, has an engaging screen presence where you just can’t take your eyes off of him and you want to know more and more about him, which this film tries to do but sadly fails. Martin doesn’t talk much but you can see all of Dafoe’s emotions pour right through the looks on his face and proves that he’s one of those rare actors that can say plenty without saying anything much at all. Great performance from Dafoe and any lesser actor would have just totally made Martin one of those strong, silent types.
Frances O’Connor is pretty good as Lucy, the chick that Martin comes to live with, and gives her character a very deep sadness to her even though she does start to lighten up a bit by the end. Sam Neill is also good as Jack, a guy who seems a lot more mysterious than Martin. Neill is great at playing these very sly characters that you just don’t know if you can trust or not and he’s no different here even though this character does end up being a little bit more human by the end then you expect. Also, it’s great to finally here Neill in his Australian accent once again. Small cast, but effective when needed.
Consensus: The Hunter features a very slow, but melodic pace, with great performances from the small cast and beautiful cinematography. However, when it steps away from the forest, the film tries too hard to get emotional on us and it just ends up being more forced than anything else.