Always keep an eye on the quiet ones.
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.