The Loved Ones is an Australian flick that, after years of haranguing by fans, is finally getting a U.S. release. Promising a new twist on the "killer prom" trope, Lola is a high school girl who does not handle rejection well. When a boy declines her invitation to prom, she kidnaps the boy and teaches him a lesson in the most brutal way possible - with her daddy there to help her every step of the way. We chatted with Robin McLeavy, who plays Lola, about this new take on an old story.
Tell me about Lola.
Well, when I read the script, I was just drawn in by how unhinged and off-beat she was. I loved the fact that she was a female character in a horror film who was driving the action. She was the perpetrator of the violence. So that is what initially drew me to her. On the psychological level, it was something I had never done before. The approach I took was twofold. One thing I really wanted to explore - to avoid freaking myself out too much - was having a lot of fun with the role, and being as creative as possible. I wanted to enjoy the prom night that she and Daddy were making for Brent. I kind of viewed the acts of violence as more of a series of party tricks. It was more of a fantasy - we may as well have had a jumping castle out back. The other aspect of it was how rejected Lola feels, what a teenage girl can go through in terms of self esteem and how she is seen by boys.
Was this your first bad seed role?
Yeah, it really was. I had done a lot of theater in the past. When I read the script I was playing Catherine the Great of Russia. She was a bit of a badass - held a few coups, killed a few people. Directly after that I played Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Isabella, a nun, in Measure for Measure, so [Lola] definitely wasn't in my repertoire. So I thought, sure, let's add a crazy psycho girl to my list.
What were some of the challenges you faced, trying to get into that crazy-psycho headspace?
I guess the first challenge was that Sean [Byrne, the director] asked me to watch a bunch of horror films, and I am such a wimp when it comes to horror. I can be in one, sure, but watching one? I have to make sure [I watch it] in the middle of the day, and all the curtains are open, and I am meeting up with someone after - or someone is watching with me. Otherwise I get too creeped out. So that was definitely a challenge, just familiarizing myself with the genre. Sean is an expert in the horror genre and I was really going into it blindly. I also read stuff on like Jeffrey Dahmer, which was pretty discomforting to me. I decided to take a different tact just to protect myself.
What were some of the movies Sean asked you to watch for research?
Carrie, Natural Born Killers, and Misery. I loved Misery. That is the one you can see a lot of parallels between. It is less confronting for me to watch women be the perpetrators of violence. I think as women, we are so used to watching films - especially in the horror genre - where we are victims, running from a man with a knife, screaming, half-naked. I would never agree to do that. This was more palatable - if you can call it that.
I know you haven't seen many horror movies, but it seems that prom is always the place where shit happens. How do you think The Loved Ones will stand up in the field?
I think what sets it apart is that we are having prom in our own, freaky house. When we were shooting it, people kept saying it was like we were in a creepy dollhouse. The idea of being caught in this run-down little shack in the middle of nowhere of Australia, with a mirrorball and bright pink dress... it was just surreal and fantastical. So I guess that will be one thing that sets it apart from films where you are actually at the school and there is an escape route, and normal people around. This is confined - that's what makes it scary.
Can you talk a little bit about the relationship your character has with her father? It's a bit... unusual.
It was kind of interesting to explore what it is to come from a dysfunctional family, particularly a father-daughter dynamic that is very co-dependent. Daddy, played by John Brumpton, is really at Lola's beck and call. He serves every whim of hers to make her happy. There was this kind of gleefulness that he and I really loved. They were up to no good - but it was a fun thing for them to do. John and I would often burst into laughter mid-scene which was pretty disconcerting. We have seen the film quite a few times, but we still start giggling quite moronically. Those characters are still lurking in there, somewhere.
So you can watch the film and not be scared by it?
Yeah. I step back into Lola's mind when I watch it. When I remember that it's me, I think that people will get the completely wrong judgement of me if they base their judgement of me on the character. I just go straight back to what it felt like at the time, and it was really quite a joyful experience - even though that sounds quite messed up.