The Loved Ones - movie reviewPower tools and horror movies have had a happy relationship for decades now, but there’s a scene in The Loved Ones involving a power drill that’s so intense that people – jaded, cynical, working in the media-type people – actually walked out of the screening I attended.
It’s not like they were a couple of pensioners who wandered in thinking they were going to see a movie about a couple of missing puppies: these were people who knew exactly what they were in for, and found out they couldn’t take it. Which, when you think about it, is about as high praise as you can give a horror movie (especially if you don’t ask for your money back), and The Loved Ones totally deserves it.
For starters, writer / director Sean Byrne has gone to the trouble of creating characters who you actually don’t want to see brutally chopped up, which might sound obvious for a horror film but you’d be surprised how many slasher films actually seem to want the audience to side with the killer. This is hardly a think piece, but we are given enough insight into high school student Brent (Xavier Samuel) – dead dad, inner pain, hot and caring girlfriend – to feel concerned for him when things start to go horribly wrong.
Turns out he really shouldn’t have said no when the slightly creepy Lola (Robin McLeavy) asked him to the school dance, because now she and her equally off-kilter dad (John Brumpton) are holding a dance of their own at their isolated farmhouse and they’re the only ones’ who’re going to be having any fun.
Following the model of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Byrne pays a lot more attention to the suspense side of things than he does to actually showing knives rammed through people’s parts (but don’t worry, you’ll get that too), resulting in a film that isn’t really all that gory but certainly feels like it should be. It’s also pretty funny at times, thanks to Lola’s occasionally fumbling efforts at human carpentry and a tension-relieving subplot involving Brent’s mate Sac (Richard Wilson) and his date for the dance.
Thankfully this never enters the dreaded “horror-comedy” zone but the dark humour does go a long way towards keeping the horror at maximum pitch, allowing a release for the audience without disrupting the general mood of feeling like you’ve stumbled into a nightmare that refuses to end. And if there’s any justice in the world this film’s use of Casey Chambers’ “Not Pretty Enough” will result in no-one being able to take it seriously again.
Grueling in the best possible way, this is easily the best Australian horror film since Wolf Creek and yet another ad for the outback as a place populated entirely by murderous freaks: consider the last decades worth of effort by Tourism Australia well and truly flushed.
Four and a half stars
**We've got 40 double passes to our screening, and to snatch one up just email email@example.com with the subject heading The Loved Ones and we'll add you plus+1 to the door list. First 40 replies are on the list! Sadly this is a Melbourne only screening, so please don't RSVP if you won't be in town on the night. **
TheVine Halloween screening: The Loved Ones
Tuesday the 26th of October
1000 £ BEND, 361 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
6:15pm for a 6:30pm start
The Loved Ones opens in Australian cinemas on November 4.
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