17 year old Brent (Xavier Samuel) is driving along a road in rural Australia with his father as passenger. Easy banter. Some good-natured jibes over musical tastes. Dad’s into Little River Band (yoikes!), son’s a metal head (yoikes again!). The normality of the situation is unnerving. You know this is a horror flick. You know something’s in store, it ain’t gonna be good, and it’s comin’ soon. “Watch out!” yells Dad. A shirtless man with slashed, bloody torso is standing like a zombie in the middle of the road. A screech of brakes, the car swerves off the road, SMASH.
Intriguing opening. And unlike many movies of its genre, The Loved Ones delivers on the promise of its opening scenes. We even get to find out – eventually – who the apparition in the middle of the road is. It’s not some easy unsatisfying supernatural explanation, either, completing the narrative with the neat precision of a missing jigsaw piece, and explaining the destructive behaviour of one of the characters in a subplot that runs parallel with the main storyline. Nice.
This is but one instance of the clever plotting that sets this movie apart as a standout of its genre. Oh, there are plot holes, but what slash-horror flick is devoid of those? As fans are well aware, horror movies are a game in which the audience participates, accepting all sorts of implausibilities. Refusal to do so will ruin the fun.
Back to the story. Tortured by guilt over the death of his father, Brent retreats into dope and heavy metal…but his trials have only just begun. When shy wallflower Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) asks him to the school prom, he turns her down. Big mistake. You know what they say about the quiet ones (especially in the context of school proms and horror flicks!).
With the help of creepy Daddy (John Brumpton), who’ll do anything for his ‘Princess’, Lola plans her very own private prom at home, with Brent as her captive beau. Be assured, it’s a night he’ll never forget. And if you make it along to this flick, neither will you!
Be clear: if you’re not into slash-horror-comedies, there’s probably not much point in fronting up to The Loved Ones. It is very much of its genre. However, first-time feature writer-director Sean Byrne has put a lot of thought into his screenplay and it shows. The characters are well developed, their actions and behaviour are driven by plausible motivations, the narrative is tight, and all the loose ends are tied up. That’s unusual in any flick, let alone a horror-comedy.
The cast relishes their roles, and while there’s a sense that it was a fun shoot, they play their parts straight and true to character and leave the winking at the audience to the director. As an added bonus, there’s some nice eye candy served up for both guys and gals.
I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre so take this with a pinch of something appropriate, but for me The Loved Ones is several cuts (sorry) above yer typical Hollywood product of this ilk. Tense, blackly funny, psychologically astute, some scary moments, with the obligatory gore and yuk factors over the top but decidedly cartoonish, well-resolved story – all in all, thoroughly entertaining. What more do ya want?
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