Looking at the poster of a high-school aged self-made prom queen in a hot pink dress with a cordless drill in hand, I was sold. Well, at least making a down payment.
“Prom Night can be torture” is the Australian film’s tagline, and that puts it very mildly for our protagonist Brent. Here is a guy who was behind the wheel during an accident that took the life of his father; an accident caused by a bloodied young man wondering in the road (more on that later). Brent relies on weed and self-mutilation to feel anything. He’s a young man coming to terms with life without his father, and trying to accept the love his girlfriend is painstakingly trying to give him. We pick up with Brent in the halls of his high school, 6 months after the accident. He’s just turned down Lola’s (the girl with the drill) request to attend Prom with her. Bad move dude, bad move. But hindsight’s 20/20. There’s a few friends peppered in here and there for some flavor, but this one’s mostly about Brent and Lola and how he’s deeply going to regret that decision in the hallway.
The Loved Ones is a brilliant mashup of the torture horror and high-school coming of age genres. It’s the type of teenage dream THAT NOBODY HAS! Think Hostel mixed with a little Carrie, add a dash of Pretty in Pink, and the creepy Outback of Wolf Creek. The key to this one though is the scale and the scope we’re given to the story and our characters. There isn’t too much of a backstory, with the exception of Brent and the accident and where that bloodied body in the road comes in to play. We slowly come to learn more of Lola and her father’s demented lives, and their connection to Brent and the loss of his father. Director Sean Byrne does a wonderful job of letting us soak in to the heart of the story, and not distracting us by too many side stories or characters. There is a friend who we follow on Prom night through his attempt to score with the school’s emo ladychick. But that emo standout and her family even have a connection to Lola and her father, and to Brent. And that’s the joy in this watch, is that we know it’s all about Brent and his chance of survival, but we’re still clued in to a slightly bigger picture. While this is a small Australian town, and everyone seems to know everyone, there’s a lot not known about all the missing blokes this town’s been unable to find over the years.
A very strong performance by Xavier Samuel in the lead role of Brent. Never heard of the guy before, but apparently he was in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (deduct 3 points). His contained anger and self-blame is hard to watch at times. The scene that kicks of the horror elements of the film – he’s alone in the canyon with his dog and an iPod – is a great scene where we take a peek at how he’s come to deal with his inner turmoil. This is a scene where he’s starting to realize there’s more to what he’s been feeling, and that maybe it’s time to let himself feel something greater (e.g., the love from his girlfriend Holly, played by Victoria Thaine), but he’s abruptly snatched from that moment and thrown in to something much worse. Enter Lola and Daddy. Both uber creepy, and played with a wink by Robin McLeavy and John Brumpton. Lola has quite the Daddy complex, and we really get a taste of the in the 2nd act of the movie – it gets quite awkward, so be ready. Brent’s dialogue is rather limited once he finds his way to the inside of Lola’s home, except for some of the most screaching screams I’ve ever heard. They’re animal/beast-like, and it’s creepy.
What I love most about the film is the creativity in atmosphere and how demented we get in the living room of what could be anyone’s home. I appreciate that right when you think you have the whole Lola-Daddy story pegged, Byrne adds another element to it and ties the story in a knot that can’t be undone. This makes you realize why we’ve been following the other couple on Prom night, and why we this Police Officer we’ve met a few times throughout the story matters at all. The human, and inhumane, element comes through with every scene Brent and Lola share. It’s aggressive, brutal, emotional, contained, and even funny at times. But above all, this is a film showcasing how truly fucked up the girl next door could be. This is the directorial debut of Byrne, and I’m excited to see what comes next for him.
For a film that’s nearly 3 years old to finally get some sort of release in U.S. theaters is a feat in and of itself, but it pisses me off that a REALLY GOOD genre film like this took 3 years to find a stateside audience. This even showed at TIFF in ’09, AFI Film Fest in ’09 and a number of other fests throughout the country since then. Paramount Pictures finally took ownership and is now showing the film in select U.S. cities – even scheduling some appropriate midnight showings in major cities. See it if it’s showing near you, see it when it hits DVD, see it on Netflix eventually. If you’re a fan of the genre, just see it.
Steve says: “YES!
Official Site: http://www.thelovedonesmovie.com
Official Trailer: (see below)