31 Days to Scare ~ The Loved Ones

The Facts:

Synopsis: When Brent turns down his classmate Lola’s invitation to the prom, she concocts a wildly violent plan for revenge

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine

Director: Sean Byrne

Rated: R

Running Length: 84 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  Horror is a particular thing from country to country.  US films tend to be more slick and catered to demographics, Japanese horror has never met a paranormal entity it can’t exploit, Italian entries focus on  elaborate art direction, and Spanish horror favors atmosphere above all else.  My experience with Australian horror films like Wolf Creek, Road Games, and Rogue are that they like to get down and dirty and show little remorse to either side of the terror.  The victims Down Under get put through the ringer which usually means that the main villain will not only get what’s coming to them…but it won’t be pretty.

A perfect example is The Loved Ones.  Filmed in 2009 but just being released in the US, this is a twisted tale of obsession that is equal parts Carrie and Fatal Attraction.  With a game cast and unyielding direction from a clearly talented newcomer, it’s a brutal film that doesn’t skimp on the squirm factor.  If only it had a stronger script…it could have been a lasting example of pain done right.

When Emily Blunt look-alike Leavy’s Lola asks handsome but troubled Brent (Samuel who was also the male lead in a previous 31 Days to Scare entry, Bait 3D) to the end of the year dance, she’s hoping that his good nature will prevail and he’ll say yes.  Too bad he already has a semi-girlfriend (Thaine) that is as understanding as she is adequately beautiful.  Soon Lola has her doting Daddy (Brumpton – chilling) kidnap Brent for their own special evening.

What transpires over the course of the night is the main crux of the film so I shan’t give it away – let’s just say that Lola’s idea of a dream date is the stuff that nightmares are made of.  As the film progresses we learn that this is not merely a tale of obsession between a lonely girl and the studly popular boy but a devious twist on that conventional set-up.

Unfortunately, this central story just isn’t enough for director Byrne to focus on.  There’s a whole other plotline of another couple going to the dance that seems ponderous and distracted – not aided by the two actors that can’t keep things interesting.  Eventually, their parallel plotline fits into the mix but it’s too little too late.

Samuel again cuts a nice swath as the leading man…though this role is pretty much the exact same one he played in Bait 3D.  Both films have a prologue with Samuel playing a role in the demise of a loved one…and both films pick up several months later when he still can’t forgive himself.  At the same time, credit should be given for the young actor to ably convey the emotion that goes alone with some of the hell he endures at the hands of Levy and Brumpton.  Levy is pretty solid too…taking her nutso role serious enough to not push her over the edge too soon.

A short sprint at less than 90 minutes, The Loved Ones could be a film that becomes a late night favorite…or certainly one that people will be interested to discover on the shelves of the video store and in their Netflix queue.  I picked it up from Redbox and it’s more than worth the $1.20 fee you’d spend.   It’s rare that horror films are so nice and nasty at the same time but The Loved Ones earns a recommendation on that balancing act alone.

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