Director – Sean Byrne
Cast – Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Andrew S. Gilbert, Suzi Dougherty
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had heard many great things about this film, and read nearly nothing but fantastic reviews as well, so The Loved Ones was a film that I had to see. Due to the massive amount of positive buzz surrounding this watch, I expected to enjoy this Australian horror film to the fullest…but that was not the case. The Loved Ones may be one of the most raved about films of 2009/2010, but after barely surviving this un-enjoyable(for me) watch I must say that in my opinion this is one of the most overrated films of recent time.
Six months after a fatal car crash that left him fatherless, Brent is coping with his mother’s emotional breakdowns over the loss of her husband, and does what he can do deal with his situation. Heavy metal, marijuana, and his down-to-Earth sweetheart Holly are all that he needs to enjoy the life that he has, but things change when the end of the year dance comes around and he turns down the wrong girl. Not settling on “no” for an answer, her and her father kidnap Brent and subject him to their own makeshift dance…which comes with an unsettling future for Brent.
The Loved Ones is not the first horror film to play off of the school prom/dance concept, but I personally enjoy these types of films because most of us can relate to them(unless you were home schooled) and we do not get many films focusing on the subject. This film is somewhat like the 2008 watch Otis, except in the case of The Loved Ones we have a female going crazy and taking the dance into her own hands. I enjoyed this because I feel that we do not get enough female antagonists in the horror genre, and it is nice to see a non-female not running from a big burly bloodthirsty killer for a change. Sadly, that is pretty much all that I enjoyed from the film’s storyline, as the rest of the film took on some less-than-favorable ideas that I left me annoyed at best. For one, all of the film’s characters are completely unlikable. It should come as no surprise that the antagonists are unlikable, but I usually tend to root for the antagonist if he/she is awesome enough, but that was not what happened here. To make matters worse, we get a protagonist that meant absolutely nothing to me, although I will admit that I was rooting for the guy only because I disliked the antagonists so much. My biggest gripe regarding the story though is the usage of two supporting(if you can call it that) characters, Jamie and Holly. While at first Jamie and Holly interact with Brent, they are soon split up and are never reunited throughout the rest the film. Basically, the two group of people, Brent/Lola and Jamie/Holly came in the form of two different plots, with both of them going in different directions and never coming together. I found this to be a very stupid thing to put into the film, and while I have heard some justification to it stating that Jamie and Holly’s actions are meant to show the viewer what Brent could be doing if he wasn’t being held prisoner, I am just not buying that. Why? Well, because if that IS the case and that is what writer/director Sean Byrne was going for then he did not execute it very well and never sold the idea to me.
Direction-wise Sean Byrne did an OK job with the mediocre script that he wrote for himself. The look and feel of the film reminded me heavily of Otis, with even the musical scores sounding very similar to one another. I am not sure what Mr. Byrne was going for with his character performances, but if his objective was to deliver the most unlikable characters imaginable then he succeeded at doing just that. We do get a good amount of gore, and he does not shy away from showing some pretty hard-to-watch scenes, and I did appreciate those scenes for the horror that they added to the film. Despite all of my negative banter I do believe that the horror involved was quite good at times, especially the “dungeon” scenes in the latter half of the film.
Overall, The Loved Ones is a film that I had high hopes for, but in the end I was left with a film that I would not recommend to anyone. While this flick definitely has its following of true believers and supporters, unlikable characters and some ridiculous story usage left me very disappointed with this one.