Blu Review: THE LOVED ONES
18 – 84mins – 2009
Written by: Sean Byrne
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Richard Wilson, Jessica McNamee, Suzi Dougherty, Victoria Egger, Anne Scott-Pendlebury
Short film-maker Sean Byrne graduates to feature length productions with this disturbing Aussie torture flick which was marketed off the back of leading man Xavier Samuel's turn as victim-turned-vamp Riley in last year's phenomenally popular Twilight Saga: Eclipse (reviewed HERE).
Samuel plays emotionally addled high-schooler Brent, who hides the guilt and pain of killing his father in a car accident six months previous by burying himself in heavy metal and marijuana binges. When he snubs introverted wallflower Lola's (McLeacy) offer of a date to the prom, Brent is completely unaware of the danger that lays ahead. Knocked unconscious and kidnapped by Lola's deranged daddy (Brumpton), Brent wakes up to a very different dance – one where you most definitely don't want to be crowned prom king.
The director's upbringing in short films is evident, with The Loved Ones feeling very much like a one-note idea stretched just shy of 90minutes. Attempts to pad out Lola's macabre revenge scenario by cutting to Brent's best pal Jamie's very different (and far more successful) prom experience with severe goth Mia (Home and Away's McNamee) feels very much like an unproductive tangent, with Jaimie not once questioning where his friend is, being far more interested in getting Mia stoned and naked.
Brent's distraught mother (Dougherty) and girlfriend Holly (Thaine) are left very much in the dark (and for large stretches kept off-screen), until Holly is hit by a spark of inspiration as to her absent suitor's whereabouts. Byrne dedicates most of his energy to the excruciating main event, which succeeds in being every bit as horrific and uncomfortable as you can imagine, with a hammer, nails, a drill, carving knife and a pot of table salt featuring very highly in twisted Lola's agonizing game plan.
Despite clarification that Brent is by no means their fist victim, little reason is given for the demented duo's motivation, particularly not when heavy hints are dropped that Lola never really cared for Brent at all and is far more interested in an incestuous relationship with her far-too-obliging pa (*eww*). So why the cruel affliction show? It wasn't as if Brent bullied her or laughed in her face, if anything he was rather gentlemanly about it? There's just no pleasing some people...
In a CR@B Shell: A gutsy and squirm-inducing horror which delivers the gore and doesn't shy away from the gaudy, either. Regrettably, The Loved Ones falls down by being too vague with its cause in favour of brutal, blood-soaked effects.