Today’s guest reviewer is WC Shepherd who manages the Comics Unraveled group. He writes about the Australian horror film The Loved Ones.
Australia is known for a lot of things: pristine beaches, coral reefs, picturesque deserts, Yahoo Serious and having more things that want to kill you per square inch than any other area of the planet. The Loved Ones doesn’t do much to dispel this idea.
We meet our hero Brent as he and his laid-back father are driving through the country, listening to classic rock I’ve never heard. Suddenly, in quintessential horror foreshadowing fashion, a shirtless, bloodied young man appears in the road, causing Brent to swerve and slam into a tree. Six months later we find out the crash killed Brent’s father and has sent the teen into an angst spiral replete with the standard substance abuse and death wishes. After having car sex with his almost unbelievably hot girlfriend, and revealing some of the most intense cutting scars I’ve ever seen with one of the most beautiful razor blades I’ve ever seen hanging from his neck (Chekov might have something to say, but I won’t spoil that part for you) he goes climbing up a sheer rock face. After nearly killing himself, Brent takes a moment to relax with his dog that’s probably not a dingo. While he’s rocking out to what must be some Australian butt rock I’ve never heard of, someone sneaks up behind him and whacks him out with a shovel. More spoilers ahead, but really none that would diminish anyone’s enjoyment of the movie, so read on, guilt free.
Soon we meet a daddy and his princess, Lola Stone. Now, we actually met Lola earlier in the movie when she, as awkwardly as a girl as beautiful as her can…I mean really, she’s supposed to be the weird freak kid, but she could easily be the hot honors roll girl…or something…anyways…asks Brent out to the school dance. Her awkward weirdness is more or less explained by her family life. Let’s explore that, shall we? Lola lives with her parents, Daddy Stone and waif of a woman they only refer to as Bright Eyes. Now Lola is a daddy’s girl through and through. It seems like the simple father just does whatever she wants from him, including lobotomizing her mother. Bright eyes is our first glimpse into just how twisted and awful Lola actually is. Aside from her perpetual slack jawed expression there is what appears to be a bullet hole in her forehead, which will be important soon.
After either paralyzing or freezing Brent’s vocal chords with what looks like anti-freeze in a Gatorade bottle, they attempt their homemade lobotomy on Brent. Lola wants to do it, so she steadies an electric drill, aims it at Brent’s head and immediately slips off track when the bit hits him, But she soon recovers and starts drilling. After Daddy Stone deems the work satisfactory, he gets a boiling kettle and starts to pour it into Brent’s new orifice. Brent has other ideas, but that’s not important now.
At some point we’re introduced to the movie’s titular characters, The Loved Ones. In the Stone’s kitchen there is a pit (in their doublewide? I dunno, go with it) with several boys, probably around Brent’s age, covered in their own filth, gargling incoherently and each adorned with the same third eye scar as Bright Eyes. Remember at the beginning when Brent’s father died when Brent swerved to miss a bloodied, skinny kid wandering mindlessly in the middle of the road? Yeah, he was one of Lola’s. See? It all ties together.
Meanwhile, everyone in Brent’s life is looking for him, including a friendly cop that lost his own son in a mysterious disappearance some time ago (remember the guy in the street? He’s kind of the This is one instance of a dissonance that permeates the story. There’s Brent and Lola’s story which is horrible, campy, intense. Then there’s everyone else’s story, which really just amounts to staring off in the distance pensively with a worried look. I get that everyone’s worried, but there doesn’t seem to be much investigation or looking for the boy. But don’t worry, somehow, inexplicably, Brent’s over worried super blonde girlfriend somehow figures exactly where he is. She calls the more than depressed cop and informs him of Brent’s whereabouts. The cop heads over, but damn if that wasn’t a pointless trip. Why cops ever go into a potential situation without some kind of back up ready in movies I’ll never understand. That kind of thing bothers me more than the suspense in those situations excites. In other words, a diminishing returns sort of situation. Aside from these pretty over-lookable plot holes, the movie is great.
The Loved Ones is pure torture porn. There’s no way around that. And like I said before, torture horror isn’t one of my favorite genres. In fact, I tend to leave it alone. But I do still enjoy teen movies, and if anything this is torture horror for teens. You’ve got the dance, you’ve got the angst ridden protagonist, you’ve got actually good music for an Australian movie, and you’ve got the most twisted forced unrequited love I’ve ever seen. And I enjoy good, well made films, which this most certainly is. Really this is more of a teen movie, but believe me the gore and violence certainly earned it’s R rating. Also, I love revenge movies. Things like Last House on the Left and Oldboy while being horrible and awful, give more of an intense sense of hope for the viewer than say the Saw franchise or Hostel, or even something designed only for hope, like a Superman movie. The emotional swing that comes from a hopeless, destitute, completely depressed and fearful protagonist coming back and winning the day is far more intense than your favorite super hero movie. It’s an addicting cinematic quality for me now.