Movie Review: The Loved Ones
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: November 4, 2010
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Stars: 3 out of 5
With a tag line like "Prom Night Can Be Torture," audiences are probably thinking that "The Loved Ones" is a lot like the horror film "Carrie." Though both of the movies are centered on prom and get pretty bloody, they are actually quite different. Comparing this movie to "Carrie" does it a disservice because few movies can match up to the brilliance of the 1976 classic. When judged without comparison and only on its own merits, "The Loved Ones" is a good, if slightly disturbing, film.
The movie begins with young Brent (Xavier Samuel), who is a high school student. He is driving with his dad next to him in the passenger seat when he sees something bloody in the road. Unsure of what it is, he swerves to miss hitting it and loses control of the vehicle. When he wakes up, he is alive, though worse for wear. His father, unfortunately, is dead.
Brent suffers what seems like endless guilt over the death, which he feels was his fault. Even though people try to tell him that it wasn't his fault, he can't seem to get over it and walks around in a depressed state. Even his best buddy Jamie (Richard Wilson) can't seem to cheer him up. It isn't until he meets the beautiful Holly (Victoria Thaine) that he begins to recover.
Holly instantly likes Brent and is caring enough to want to help him get over his father's death. This is exactly what he needs, and the two begin dating. Brent finally begins to come out of his shell and seems on the road to recovery. Of course, this is a horror flick, and we are only a few minutes into the movie, so Brent can't live happily ever after yet.
As Brent is falling for Holly, the deranged Lola (Robin McLeavy) has been admiring him from afar. She finally works up the courage to ask him out to the prom. He already has a date with Holly, so he says no to Lola. He isn't rude or mean about it, but Lola doesn't see it that way. In her sick, twisted mind, he spurned her. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Lola aims to prove that cliché to be true.
Lola lives in a secluded cottage out in the woods, one that seems tailor-made for a horror film. It is in an area where nobody will hear you scream, yet close enough to civilization to make escape plausible. She lives there with her equally deranged father, Eric (John Brumpton), who she convinces to kidnap Brent. She lies and tells him that Brent has done her wrong, although because of her skewed worldview, it is never clear if she lied on purpose or if she thought she was telling the truth.
What follows is a series of torture scenes that will make even the most seasoned horror fans squirm. Some are done in slow motion to really show viewers just how painful this all is. It starts out relatively tame, with Lola drawing a heart on Brent's chest, then using a knife to carve her initials into it. Yes, that is the tamest thing that happens to him. Everything else is completely hardcore, with some scenes as inventive as they are gruesome.
Director Sean Byrne finds a way to make Lola somewhat sympathetic, even as she continues to torture poor Brent. Part of that is due to the performance of McLeavy, who infuses Lola with a teenage vulnerability that is reminiscent of some of the best John Hughes movies. We know she is doing wrong, but we feel sorry for her because she clearly needs help.
Byrne also wrote the screenplay, which he sprinkles with some comedy. He clearly knew that there needed to be some breaks from all the bloody torture scenes so he formulated a subplot where Jamie is attending the prom with a Goth girl. Because he is a socially awkward nerd, there is plenty of comic relief dispersed between the gory scenes taking place simultaneously in Lola's house.
It almost seems cruel to put Brent through all of this physical torture when he spent the last six months going through psychological torture. As a result, viewers will no doubt sympathize with Brent and want to see him escape Lola's grasp before she kills him. Whether that happens or not will keep viewers on the edge of their seat. That is, when they are not flinching or closing their eyes as they watch Lola take out all her pathos on an increasingly desperate Brent.