By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as DVD Review: The Loved Ones on Blogcritics.
This sick little Australian import, the debut feature from writer-director Sean Byrne, first appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival way back in 2009. Now Paramount Pictures is releasing the unrated horror film on DVD. It’s a simple story about a high school student, Brent (Xavier Samuel), who turns down the wrong girl when asked to attend the end-of-school dance.
That wrong girl is Lola Stone, aka “Princess” (Robin McLeavy), a pretty but outwardly shy wallflower. Brent is already going to the dance with his steady girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine). Had he known what fate awaited, Brent probably would’ve taken Lola and risked pissing off Holly. After watching Brent and Holly going at it in Brent’s car in broad daylight, Lola appears to have something nasty in mind. Her psychotic father (John Brumpton) captures Brent and takes him to the Stone residence where they proceed to hold their own “dance.”
It should be said that in the opening sequence, set six months prior to the events described above, Brent has a terrible car accident that results in the death of his father. He’s deeply guilt-ridden, believing that not only was the accident his fault (he was, after all, behind the wheel), but that his mother holds him accountable. He has taken to self-mutilation and daredevil stunts, like climbing a sheer rock wall and hanging on with one hand, to punish himself. He hasn’t had a very good six months, to say they least, but his “prom night” with Lola is by far the worst of his experiences.
Meanwhile, in a subplot that goes nowhere, Brent’s friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) takes a gorgeous but sullen goth girl, Mia (Jessica McNamee) to the actual school dance. They smoke weed and end up having sex on school grounds in Jamie’s car. Mia’s brother went missing some time ago and her cop father was never able to locate him. Her rebellious behavior is her way of dealing with her loss. While the school dance scenes don’t really do anything more than break up the tension of the horrors at the Stone residence, Mia’s father now has another missing persons case to work when Brent’s mother reports his disappearance.
No fair revealing too much about the various tortures that Brent must endure at the hands of Lola and her father. Having something toxic injected into his neck that inhibits his ability to scream is the least of it. As for its most extreme moments, let’s just say that the power drill wielded by Lola isn’t used for home repairs. Though fairly graphic and loaded with disturbing imagery, it’s worth pointing out that just as much is implied as is actually shown. While I could’ve used a little more depth to Brent and wished his friend Jamie was better integrated into the story, The Loved Ones is an entertaining horror excursion with a creepy score by Ollie Olsen (formerly of the obscure Michael Hutchence-fronted Australian band Max Q). Brumpton and McLeavy make a supremely nightmarish father/daughter duo, with McLeavy in particular making a memorable impression.
The DVD features are limited, but there are 23 minutes of interviews included. From the cast, we hear from Robin McLeavy and Xavier Samuel, both discussing their characters. Special effects makeup supervisor Justin Dix also chimes in with some good info about the blood and gore. A download code for an UltraViolet copy is also included. The Loved Ones is available on DVD September 11, 2012. The Loved Ones is also available for rental at Redbox kiosks.