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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Loved Ones, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Sick, twisted, and a lot of fun."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: What sort of movie is "The Loved Ones"? It's the sort of movie where, when a carpet is lifted from the floor to reveal hinges, we in the audience are given a bit of time to ponder just what sort of poisonous Australian animals might be in that pit, waiting to feed - and then realize that, really, based upon what we've seen of the movie so far, we both should have guessed and not underestimated how truly messed up filmmaker Sean Byrne's imagination was.

Things have not been going well for Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel); his father died in an automobile accident while Brent was driving six months ago, which has weighed on him and his mother ever since. But, it's the end of the school year, time for the dance, and not only has Brent's buddy Sac (Richard Wilson) gotten sexy Mia (Jessica McNamee) for his date, he's going with Holly (Victoria Thaine). Lola (Robin McLeavy) has asked him, too, and while Brent let her down easy... Well, to coin a phrase, whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. Especially since she's willing to settle for a little party in her home, and her doting father Eric (John Brumpton) is just as much a psychopath as she is.

And, holy crap, are they nuts. While I'm certain that their dynamic has shown up in horror movies before, Robin McLeavy is especially noteworthy as Lola. She initially comes off as an average girl, as opposed to a bombshell stuck behind a bad haircut and glasses, and when we see her alone initially, she seems like a normal teenage girl that's a little shy and has her fantasies. As the movie goes on, of course, she's revealed to be more and more of a lunatic, and I like the way she doesn't just turn it on full-blast when Brent regains consciousness in Lola's house; she initially seems to be just kind of spoiled, but soon starts joining in, and by the time the movie's over, she's playing it big, one of the most enthusiastic, indestructible, and entertaining horror villainesses in a long time. Brumpton, meanwhile, is just plain low-key creepy as the father; combining the dad indulging his little princess with a guy who may well have been a serial killer well before Lola came around. Part of the fun of watching them together is that it's never quite clear who was insane first.

Plus, it's just good black comedy to see father and daughter bonding over stuff like proper power-trepanation technique. That's one you don't see a lot of, and it's just one nasty thing Byrne and company have in store for Samuel's Brent. Samuel is pretty good himself, going from morose to determined and selling the audience on every bit of torment inflicted upon him in the movie, whether it be emotional or physical. Not bad work, considering that he does much of it tied to a chair while the special effects make-up artists have their way with him.

Those guys must have been having a ball; though much of the action where their work is needed takes place in one room with a limited number of people, Byrne keeps them busy, finding new ways to maim and/or dispatch characters. Plenty of well-done gore, with even the sound effects alone frequently being enough to make the audience wince. It's a gruesome movie, often in the service of pitch-black humor, but even when one laughs, the thought that what's on-screen is really pretty diseased is always running through one's head.

And yet, remarkably, The Loved Ones doesn't feel nearly as craven as most torture porn, even though that's pretty clearly what it could be (a person locked in a room, being mutilated by various sickos). Why? It's not the fact that it's a guy being tormented by a girl, or that Byrne hits our eyes and ears with bright colors and a poppy soundtrack, although both of those provide a nice variation on the usual orgy of gloom. No, part of what separates The Loved Ones from its kin is that it doesn't entirely play its violence as just gratification for those who enjoy watching such things. The movie frequently cuts away to Brent's mother, Holly, Sac, and Mia without involving them directly in the action, not just because the movie needs to stretch a bit to to make feature length. It's an occasional (and occasionally surprising) reminder that this sort of death and mayhem doesn't exist in a vacuum, and damages more than just the folks who are clearly going to wind up with physical scars.

Not that the movie is ever heavy-handed or overbearing with that sort of moralizing; Byrne mostly uses it to get us a little more invested in what's going on, so we can cheer when the tables are turned and cringe a little more when they're turned back. It's twisted, gory mayhem, but of the engrossing and entertaining variety.

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originally posted: 08/06/10 12:18:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/15/15 filmiw23 is this a joke this movie number one on this site? 1 stars
12/15/13 Marty Fun horror with good gore. Frilly interludes obviously only to break up the depravity. 4 stars
1/19/13 Marguerite Eustace Interesting 4 stars
12/07/11 Leeee Awesome 5 stars
11/18/10 joey johnson Scary, Sick and twisted. 5 stars
8/08/10 Ronald Holst This Director wow what was he smoking funny though it worked 4 stars
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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 11-Sep-2012


  DVD: 11-Sep-2012

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