The Loved Ones – 5

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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.

Rating: 5/10


  1. sugar coma

    I think this film is better than you are giving it credit. The subplot of Jamie and Holly is another example of what happens when death enters an equation. Holly was the brother of the victim before Brent and her behavior is indicative of mourning and a teen out of control. So her brother was a loved one the same as the lobotomized people in the basement were previous “loved ones”. The subplot is an almost perfect polarity to what Lola and her Dad consider love.

  2. johnofthedead

    I had a feeling that maybe the film is better than I perceived it, and that I just plain did not like it. Either way, the film has its recognition despite what I have to say. Glad you read my review though, and thank you for the comment and explaining how you see Jamie and Holly in the film, I appreciate it.

  3. sugar coma

    No problem. Most of the time I totally agree with your reviews and think you are spot on. Keep up the good work your blog is one of the few I read religously.

  4. andrew732

    If a certain tomato-themed review aggregator website is to be believed, this is one of the 2 or 3 best horror films of the past 10 years: a stunning, terrifying, wildly creative masterpiece of the art form. (Look at that pull quote on the DVD box art above.) Have any of these critics seen a horror flick before? A teenage girl as the villain is mildly interesting and McLeavy gives a nicely unhinged performance, but this is straightforward torture porn material that has been covered at least as well by dozens, if not hundreds of other movies. I kept waiting for things to really take off after the basic kidnapping setup was complete, but it never really went anywhere. While it’s competently made, I wouldn’t even describe it as a particularly effective example of the genre. For example, one third of the already thin 80 minute running time is devoted to a slightly amusing but strangely pointless subplot about the stoner friend’s date with a goth hottie. (Yes, I know she is the sister of one of the victims and we see the effect his disappearance has on her, but so what?) Bottom line: this is the most overrated horror flick to come down the pipe in a long time and is barely worth the effort to watch it, even if you’re a big horror fan. If you want torture porn and/or Australian horror, you can do better: Wolf Creek, Lake Mungo, Martyrs, heck, even Hostel.

  5. johnofthedead

    Very good points made Andrew. I felt the same way about the subplot. I considered re-watching this due to all of the hype it received but I really don’t think I would feel any different. Definitely overrated and nowhere near the likes of Martyrs, which is one of my personal favorite horror films fo the last 10 years.

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