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The Loved Ones (2012)

November 9, 2012

VERDICT:
8/10 Families That Prey

Chalk one up for all of us who skipped prom.

The Loved Ones is about a handsome young buck from Australia named Brent. He goes to school and has a nice, steady girlfriend, but behind closed doors, Brent’s in bad shape. He blames himself for his father’s death and cuts himself to cope with the guilt. He’s come a long way, but life’s been better. Quite unfortunately, it’s about to get a lot worse. See, there’s this girl in his class; an odd, meek girl named Lola. On one such fateful day, Lola works up the courage to ask Brent to prom. Being that he’s spoken for and all, he lets Lola down in the nicest, most genuine way one could to a relative stranger. Then he heads home, takes out some aggression on himself, and while out in the woods blasting doom metal through his iPod, up and gets kidnapped by Lola’s dear dad. He wakes up soon after, dressed to the nines and strapped down to a chair in the dining room of Lola’s house. Turns out, Lola doesn’t take rejection all that well, and since her dad’ll do just about anything to make his girl happy, they decide to take matters into their own hands. So while his mother and girlfriend search high and low for his whereabouts, Brent buckles down for the worst. prom. ever.

What a great idea for a horror movie. How has this not been done before? Everyone hates rejection, and there is no bitter sting quite like putting your heart on the line and being turned down flat…or so I hear. Didn’t exactly date much in high school, and like I said, prom somehow went on without me. Not like I asked anyone in the first place, and I sure as hell wasn’t going stag, but such is life when you’re a geeky teen at an all-boys prep school. Alright, enough of this “woe is me” shit, I’m getting off track. The brilliance of The Loved Ones, at least from the outset, is that it’s essentially a blend of Sixteen Candles and Fatal Attraction. Two very different movies, but when you think about it, ones that would totally go together if Jake Ryan hadn’t been into redheads. Man, that Molly Ringwald was having a rough day to begin with. Who knows what kind of wrath she could have been unleashed on that jock if he hadn’t rolled up to her house at the end.

Anyhow, I had all hands on deck going into this one. Had heard good things, it definitely sounded like a winner, and I couldn’t deny being oddly intrigued at how that power drill was gonna enter into the equation. However, this also led to my one concern: the very real possibility of this spiraling into torture porn at some point. Call me crazy, call me a wuss, but if one thing’s for certain, torture porn is right up there with found footage in terms of things that horror could really do without these days. Intrigued as I was, I couldn’t ignore the fact that when crazy people get power drills, bad stuff starts a-happening. And as I came to find out, when Lola gets a power drill, she puts the crazy people to shame. She goes Jeffrey Dahmer on the bitch.

With that being said, The Loved Ones is one tough cookie. Bloody, gruesome, depraved, and violent, plus a whole lot of torturing to boot. Still, it’s not torture porn. Two reasons for why that is:

1) When I think of torture porn (not something I think of often), I think of the movies that leave nothing to the imagination. When someone gets maimed, the camera’s right there, forcing us all to watch, look away, or pass out. They’re an endurance test for your gag reflex. While there’s very little about The Loved Ones that isn’t an endurance test (albeit of a different breed), it’s less an exercise in traumatizing its audience as it is in testing its characters. A lot of the stuff that happens to Brent, we don’t see it head-on. We see the build-up, we see the aftermath, and on the occasions when we do see things head-on, we only get to see them in spurts. It’s a lot like Seven in that regard, and believe me, as rough as it is, it could have been way, way worse if writer/director Sean Byrne had approached it differently.

2) Torture porn is about one thing and one thing only: making people suffer for the sake of suffering. Why? Because it’s entertaining. Apparently it’s entertaining. Still, make no mistake, because suffering’s very much on the menu here. For chrissakes, it’s the house special. But there’s more to it than that because the characters aren’t pincushions. This really is a teen drama at its core, one that’s firmly rooted in everything that sucks about being a teenager and uses that base a catalyst for what happens after. It’s clear that Byrne cares about these characters and didn’t write them as lambs to the slaughter or the slaughterers of lambs. In turn, we care about them just as much and want to so see them survive/die that much more than we would have otherwise.

It’s really great how much depth and genuineness Byrne managed to imbue into this movie, but the only thing that’s still nagging me is actually Lola. My problem with Lola is actually the same problem I have with Fatal Attraction: the way Glenn Close gets painted as this uber-needy psycho-bitch from Hell who’s out to destroy Michael Douglas’ life, while Michael Douglas gets painted as the victim even though he led her on, had an affair with her, and knocked her up like a total idiot. Not trying to defend Glenn Close, because rabbit boilers are a special kind of crazy, I just hate the way that movie created this black-and-white, “she’s crazy, he’s innocent” dynamic when there was clearly so much grey to work with. Michael Douglas was a lowlife in that movie, man. And not to say that Brent is at all like Michael Douglas’ character, but I do wish there was more fueling Lola’s behavior than the notion that, since her family’s nuts, she’s nuts, too. The best thing about this premise is that the heartache caused by Brent’s rejection instantly creates the potential for some kind of sympathy or empathy towards Lola. I really wish Sean Byrne would have rolled with that more than he did, ’cause that could have worked wonders in terms of messing with the audience’s emotions, but alas, we have to settle for “crazy is as crazy does.”

Then again, not a tough thing to settle for given how good Robin McLeavy is at being Lola. Xavier Samuel’s totally committed as Brent, and John Brumpton is equally convincing in his lunacy as Lola’s old man, but the only one anyone’s gonna be talking about at the end of this is McLeavy. Girl’s got the gift, much like the one Kathy Bates had in Misery. Great job, Robin, and I wish you all the best in procuring a real-life date after this.

For a number of reasons, The Loved Ones shouldn’t work as well as it does. There’s this whole side-plot that follows Brent’s best friend and his night at the non-sociopathic prom with the town sheriff’s daughter, and as much as it tries to connect things back to Brent, it only really serves as a break from all the madness. Although, it is a welcome break at times. On top of that, there are a bunch of instances where it steps full-force into a dungheap of horror cliches that had me shaking my damn head at times. Not double-checking to make sure someone’s dead, people suddenly showing up/remembering key information at just right time – that kind of stuff. But the weird thing is that the moments pass along and really don’t detract from the experience as a whole. They don’t occur all that often, and when they do, it feels like Byrne’s doing them on purpose and not because he’s written himself into a corner. It adds to the suspense rather than adds to the frustration, and I’m still not really sure how he pulled it off.

But despite it’s slight shortcomings, The Loved Ones is a piece of work. Aside from being a totally effective horror movie, the thing that brings it to a whole new level is that it’s a really compelling story of survival. I loved how it revolved around Brent, how all the psychological anguish and physical pain he’d endured as a result of his father’s death is what prepared him for this shithouse of a night. Not only is he a refreshingly honest portrait of what a lot of teens have to live with, but it’s so easy to root for him as he turns his weaknesses into strengths. Whether its the premise, the characters, or the glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, Brent might live to see graduation, this is one hell of an easy movie to get invested in

Good luck forgetting Lola, good luck getting this goddamn song out of your head afterwards, and don’t feel bad for laughing along the way. A nice, morbid sense of humor never hurt nobody.

Oh, Lola. You so crazy.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2012 8:00 am

    I haven’t heard of this one, and it sounds interesting.

    Switching subjects, was your all-boy prep school a Marist Brother School or secular? I went to Christopher Columbus HS here in Miami.

    • November 9, 2012 8:15 am

      Gotta check it out, man. It’s a trip.

      And I actually went to a Jesuit high school in the Bronx. Fordham Prep. Something tells me we didn’t play you guys while I was there.

  2. Aimée V. permalink
    November 10, 2012 12:10 pm

    Funny thing is, I’m working on a novel for teenagers (in French of course), one of my main characters is named Lola, and I could totally see her end up like this. :p

    • November 15, 2012 10:03 am

      Hahahaha. Damn, and to think I liked the name Lola. Scratch that one off the list of potential baby names.

      • Aimée V. permalink
        November 15, 2012 11:08 am

        My dog’s name is “Scratch”. hahaha 😉

  3. November 14, 2012 12:14 am

    Reblogged this on Life on Wheels and commented:
    Gotta see this.

  4. November 14, 2012 2:55 pm

    the guy who plays brent totally looks like hilary swank.

  5. December 2, 2012 1:28 pm

    Watched it. Loved it. I love finding new horror movies outside of the mainstream! Your movie reviews haven’t steered me wrong yet! Keep ’em coming! Wow, that was a lot of exclamation marks.

    • December 10, 2012 11:43 am

      Right on, glad you loved it! And thanks for the kind words. I’ll keep writing if you keep exclamation point-ing!

Trackbacks

  1. The Loved Ones (2009) [REVIEW] | The Wolfman Cometh

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