The Loved Ones

High school senior Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel) is involved in a car accident that kills his father. Six months later, he’s hiding from his guilt listening to death metal and taking drugs. A fellow student named Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks him to the prom but he declines, before meeting his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thane), for a quick shag in her car. Trying to avoid his grief-stricken mum, he takes his dog for a walk and, whilst smoking, and listening to his iPod, gets attacked and dragged away.

His dog, suffering from a hammer attack, makes it home alerting both his mum and Holly to the fact that he’s missing. They get in touch with the local sheriff, whose son has also gone missing recently and he sets out looking for them. But Brent isn’t far – he’s going to be the ‘king of the prom’ at Lola’s house, where she and her demented daddy (John Brumpton) are having a prom all of their own…

To tell you any more would spoil this and, to be honest, it deserves to get an audience – and that audience deserves to see this without knowing too much going in. A horror film, certainly, it also has some nice touches of comedy and whilst it’ll probably get tarred with the ‘torture porn’ label (Brent does go through some discomfort), it’s not really. It is, in fact, a very well constructed, well made movie.

Samuel does really well in the lead, charting the decline of his character after inadvertently causing his father’s death, to a kind of redemption, as he suddenly realises he has a lot to live for and needs to fight back. Victoria Thaine does well with her role, which could – as ‘girlfriend of the lead’ – easily have fallen by the wayside, creating a character that the audience roots for, as she puts together the vital clues to Brent’s whereabouts.

Which leads us nicely to Lola and her daddy, way out of town and living life to their own rules; serial killers in all but name, lovers but for the final consummation (the incest angle is uncomfortable, but well played). Robin McLeavy has great fun with her role, switching between alluring, innocent teen and ruthless, stroppy bitch, and never striking a false note throughout. Brumpton, as her father, spends a lot of the film looking vacant and following his daughter’s orders until he decides to take charge and ends up making things a lot worse.

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The film is very well made, with some lovely camerawork and excellent use of the lush, Australian locations (there’s a shot, towards the end, which makes full use of the widescreen and is utterly brilliant). As a plus point, none of this appears to have been shot handheld and there’s no whip-crack editing either, which gives the film a nice, different feel (I’d say leisurely, but it’s definitely not that). The direction is tight and straightforward, never going for the easy shock and the screenplay is perfectly constructed, with the whole thing moving along at a real clip. In fact, in terms of tension, I’d say this is easily up there with Wolf Creek, ratcheting it up until you’re literally sitting on the edge of your seat.

There is some gore – let’s not beat about the bush – and it’s fairly graphic when it comes; feet nailed to the floor, some trepanning, a bit of cannibalism, and a road accident. The nice thing is, you see the end result of all of it – it’s not gore for gore’s sake, if someone gets a knife in their foot, their movement is inhibited. This is well worth looking out for – an intelligent, well-made horror film that doesn’t disappoint.

There were two extras on my screener copy. Interviews with the cast and crew was a missed opportunity, to my mind, as rather than have a straightforward talking head piece, it split everything into questions – so you’d get 10 seconds of a screen card proclaiming that the next segment would last seven seconds. The other extra was B-roll footage which, sadly, is as pointless as it sounds. But, extras be damned – watch this film, it’s very much worth it.