The Loved Ones (2009)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Sean Byrne
Writers Sean Byrne
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee
Genre Backwoods
Tagline Prom night can be torture
15 second cap Lola wants Brent as her dance date, Daddy is going to get what Lola wants.


“Is it finger licking good?” - Lola

Brent is driving his Dad down some loose metal road in the middle of nowhere while the two compare their musical tastes. Out of nowhere some dude dripping blood is in the road, Brent swerves to avoid hitting the dude, and ploughs directly into a tree. Six months later we learn Dad died on the fateful day and Brent has become depressed, is taking drugs, cutting himself with a razor blade he keeps on a necklace around his neck, and otherwise acting like a complete emo. Surprisingly he has no problems picking up the bright and cheerful Holly. Did Byrne read Twilight or something?

Brent is taking Holly to the end of school formal, they ain't called Proms in Oz folks, and his best mate Jamie has hooked up with the brooding Mia. An awkward gal named Lola asks Brent to the dance but he politely informs her he already has a date. During sex in his girlfriend's car, Lola looks on from outside, you get the feeling this isn't going to end well. On the night of the dance Brent takes his dog for a walk to get away from his overbearing mother, big mistake! Lola's Dad chloroforms him with Brent later waking up tied to a chair that is screwed to the floor in Lola's kitchen. What Lola wants Lola gets, unfortunately for Brent he has to run through a few tests first, and the pass rate is very low when Lola and Daddy award final grades.

The Loved Ones is one of those movies where it would be easy to dismiss it as yet another poor effort at appeasing the gorenography crowd and which would allow you to fling poo in the faces of those who have climbed onto the bandwagon over what is an outing with any number of problems. However, there are aspects of this debut feature by Sean Byrne that lead you to believe that with a little more thought we might have ended up with something approaching an excellent movie. While I'm not about to recommend this movie, the gore is ladled on in an effort to be the cool kid in school, I would like upfront to note that I will be very interested in seeing what Sean Bryne does in his next outing. The guy can direct, but in a parallel with Rob Zombie he can't write and relies on gore to dig himself out of a tension and atmosphere lacking first movie. Lets crack the issues with the movie and then highlight some of the good juice that's spread thinly over the veneer.

Firstly The Loved Ones is structured from three separate viewpoints, which were at least one viewpoint too many for a standard length movie. Firstly we have Brent in the kitchen at the mercy of the demented “Princess” and Daddy. Nothing wrong there, except we're all seen 101 backwoods psycho movies before and nothing new is brought to the table here. We next have Brent's mother and his girlfriend Holly fretting over where Brent has got to. Well okay that kind of works in the plot round about, gets the Cop out to the kitchen that dripped blood as Holly remembers who asked Brent to the dance. However completely unwarranted were the adventures of Jamie and Mia, who brought nothing to the dance besides some T&A action. While Byrne may think it's clever how all the stories intertwine both presently and in the past, Mia for example reflects Brent, the constant chopping and changing is distracting and takes the viewer out of the movie. Arguably Byrne may have wanted something to elevate the sheer nastiness of the torture going down over at Lola's place, my suggest would have been to ditch it and work at making an actual movie with some tension and atmosphere.

Guess I should get down to the torture, Brent goes through quite the experience as Lola makes up her mind if he is “the one”, he isn't in a sort of Taswegian twist that he me squirming I must admit. Anyway, and trying to keep on the point here, The Loved Ones while being pretty nasty isn't the blood bath that I had anticipated from preview ramblings on the net. We have knifes through feet, a drill to the head, and some other stuff you'll have the dubious pleasure of discovering for yourself. Director Byrne takes the Tobe Hooper approach circa The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) of trying to convince the Audience they are seeing more than they actual do by the judicial use of cut away shots. It doesn't really work and left me nodding my head in approval over the talents of the make-up and props folks. Regular gorehounds, who the movie is clearly aimed at, aren't going to be fooled for a minute here, though to Byrne's credit he doesn't overload with the gore.

I found The Loved Ones to be very similar in construct to Rob Zombie's debut feature The House of a 1000 Corpses. That's never a good thing by the way, Zombie talks the talk but can't walk the walk when it comes to horror. Anyways in the final block of both movies we have a development that hits the implausible button repeatedly as both Directors simply drop the ball and bail on what they have been trying to achieve previously. In Byrne's case we find out what is kept down the cellar, in what I took to be a nod to Bowery at Midnight (1942). See nothing original here folks. Anyway Bowery hints at flesh eating ghouls in a first for motion pictures, and Byrne returns serve on the idea. Actually thinking about it Byrne should do a zombie movie next, I reckon he would rock in that sub genre.

Out of room here and there's a million and one things to talk about. So quickly, excellent work by an outstanding cast that has the believable quota set to high. Sean Byrne knows what he is about in the Director's chair, the movie is tightly paced and constructed. The soundtrack is a bonus here with the controls set to ironic. And there's excellent use of a limited number of sets. Should also point out before I conclude that Byrne delivers one of the best ever “the killer's not dead” reprises I have ever seen in a horror movie. You'll be smiling even as you hit the “you have to be kidding” vibe, it's simply awesome.

The Loved Ones is an attempt to attract the gore end of the market, which judging from cinema and DVD results is pretty much a minor player in dark genre success. The movie has quickly become one you can't criticise, bit of a bandwagon going down there, yet a number of Reviewers are starting to point out issues. As a debut feature it's solid without being anywhere near as good as the hype merchants are making it out to be, one source is claiming it's the best ever Aussie horror movie, watch some more fracken Down Under horror would be the answer there. I'm not going to recommend this one to regular readers, gorenography is a cheap trick in the horror arsenal, but for those following Southern horror dial in, new Director and additional talent to keep an eye on. Fingers crossed Sean Byrne goes for something slightly more supernatural in his next outing, as gore is pretty adolescent in movie terms.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Another movie that confuses gore with horror.