Horror – Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson, John Brumpton. Written/Directed by Sean Byrne (2009)
The jovial father and son bonding preceding the crash that kills Brent’s dad provides a contrast to the sombre, unkempt Brent six months later. In one scene, and fuelled by his guilt, Brent tests his mortality by hanging off a cliff by his fingertips. When he almost slips, Brent’s moment of panic suggests that he isn’t quite ready to give up on life. Unfortunately, the choice of whether he lives or dies is taken out of his hands when he is abducted.
The Loved Ones is writer/director Sean Byrne’s first feature and was shot in Melbourne, Victoria, over a period of 5 ½ weeks. Music is used to great effect in the film, with dark metal capturing Brent’s internal anguish, contrasting nicely with the love song that Holly (Victoria Thaine) listens to as she gets ready for the dance in a romantic haze. A sassy rock instrumental introduces Mia – the sexy, cool goth chick. Mia (Jessica McNamee), together with Brent’s best friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) are used throughout the film to provide comic relief against a backdrop of the disturbing events unfolding with Brent. Sweet, bumbling Jamie and troubled, morbid Mia make a great odd couple with just enough humour to lighten an otherwise shocking, torture movie.
The cast is amazing with everyone giving strong and believable performances. Robin McLeavy is brilliant as the beautifully unhinged, Daddy’s little princes Lola Stone, while Xavier Samuel is outstanding as the torture victim Brent. John Brumpton is suitably creepy as Daddy who perhaps loves his ‘princess’ a little too much.
The Stones – Lola, Daddy and Bright Eyes – are a family that would fit right in next door to the maniacs in 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses or 1974/2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When Brent wakes up tied to a chair at the homicidal Stones’ kitchen table, disco ball overhead, you know he’s in trouble. Well, when someone admits that you’re their ‘ … first drilling’ it’s never a good sign. Garish touches such as glitter, Lola’s shocking-pink prom dress, paper crowns and a generous splattering of blood, add a sickly-sweet flourish, while poor Brent is subjected to humiliation and torture and some really uncomfortable hand-over-mouth moments, one of which reminded me of a scene from 1990’s Misery.
The Loved Ones contains one of the best fights for survival I have seen. It is a beautifully grotesque film with a solid plot, excellent performances and great production values. Oh, and there’s plenty of blood. The most gruesome act happens off screen, with just enough on view to make you squirm. I don’t want to give any more away but I think Daddy himself sums it up perfectly when he says, ‘The trick is not to go too far. Just far enough ...’
5 out of 5
By Lisa Richardson