The Loved Ones (2009)

Posted: November 4, 2013 in Movie Review
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The Loved Ones (2009)

Director: Sean Byrne

Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee

Certain landmark horror pictures from back in the day, once you’ve seen them, are easy to recognize when they are being referenced. There likely won’t be any films in the future using this one as their template, but 2009’s “The Loved Ones” is clearly made by horror fans for horror fans. It shares in common the ferocity of the movies which it references, and it delivers those moments with a knowing wink. The violence itself is sometimes diffused just before it gets too intense for you to keep looking, and then it picks back up again.

Brent (Xavier Samuel, looking very much like a young Johnny Depp) has spent the last six months brooding over the tragic death of his father. Brent was just learning how to drive when he was forced to swerve to avoid hitting a staggering, bloodied individual, resulting in the car hitting a tree. Following this, Brent refuses to drive again. He keeps a razor blade he uses for self-mutilation on a necklace, and at one point climbs a cliff near his home with thoughts of committing suicide. Had he followed through, it may have spared him further torture. It’s getting close to time for the Prom. Brent has his date secured, with girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). The weird girl in school, Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks him, but he apologizes as he’s already spoken for. The movie never once tries to disguise the fact that Lola’s not quite right in the head (not even in the promotional material). Even as Brent walks away, she has this evil look about her. Soon after, Lola and her father kidnap Brent and hold him hostage in their home.

This is the point where the references start pouring in. The two most obvious influences on “The Loved Ones” that you’ll pick up on are likely to be “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) and “Misery” (1990), with a nod to “The People Under the Stairs” (1991) coming much later. While we’re on the subject of making of horror references, it is my opinion that the song “Hush” (preferably the Deep Purple version) would have fit better with this movie than it did with “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997) but, alas, no dice. With most of the violence limited to just the one household, the characters in the B-storyline at the Prom remain oblivious to Lola and her father’s antics. In fact, the two plot threads are connected only by a single line of dialogue that you might miss entirely unless you have the volume turned up.

The breakout star of this movie is unquestionably Robin McLeavy. Her turn as the deliciously evil Lola is at times bone-chilling and over-the-top hilarious. I think my favorite moment comes after Brent has made his first escape attempt. With Brent once again secured to a chair, Lola sits in his lap, demanding that he cry. I would not want to anger this young lady. An example of a darkly humorous moment comes when Lola expresses frustration over her inability to properly work a power drill. She is a truly memorable horror villain. “The Loved Ones” is the first full-length feature from director Sean Byrne, and he’s off to a great start. He knows when to make you want to cover your eyes, yet secretly peek through your fingers, and he also knows the right way to make you blurt out, “Hey! That’s from (insert title here)!” without having his characters spell it out for you.

I went to two proms in my teenage years, and neither one of them were scary or even embarrassing. Of course, I enthusiastically chose the persons with whom I shared a dance, so of course I had a great time! The scenario which Byrne plays out for Brent, insane though it is, really isn’t that unbelievable. The truly horrific aspect of “The Loved Ones” is that these events could easily be happening somewhere right now… and probably are.

  1. Elmo Shell says:

    Yes, that pretty much summed up that movie experience in a handbag. With scenes that stick with you long after your stomach has settled.

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