FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Loved Ones'


The subject of "unrequited love" seems to come up fairly often in horror films, several of which are (logically) focused on fragile young women whose inner turmoil spill outward in some truly unpleasant ways. Films like Carrie, Rabid, May, Ginger Snaps, Teeth, etc. all take some of the stresses, the strains, and the insecurities of teenage femininity and remind us that, yowch, teenage girls have it pretty rough.

Feel free to toss a new Australian horror export onto the pile: It's a slick, quick, and surprisingly intense little anti-love story called The Loved Ones, and it's easily one of the coolest Aussie offerings of the past several years.

It's a dark and confident mash-up of Misery, Saw, and (of course) some of the films I've mentioned already, but it's also just fresh enough to deliver some of its own jolts, gasps, and legitimate shocks.

The story is a simple one: Handsome young Brent is still wounded over the loss of his father in a recent car crash. He's got a devoted girlfriend and a justifiably over-protective mother, but Brent mopes through his days at school, occasionally slicing a few cuts into his arm, and casually contemplating suicide while climbing a nearby cliff. But Brent's about to get a big lesson in the art of "appreciating life," because he's been kidnapped by a vicious psycho who just happens to have a daughter who is also Brent's classmate.

"Daddy," you see, is a raving nut-job who's thrilled to do anything his equally unhinged daughter requests. If, for example, Lola tells Daddy to club and kidnap the school's "cutest boy" and bring him back for a gore-soaked private prom, then Daddy will do just that. And he does. Brent awakens to find himself strapped to a chair, with Daddy glowering in the shadows and lovestruck Lola commanding his every attention. (A knife through the foot will capture anyone's attention.)

To say much more would spoil much of the fun, but first-time feature director Sean Byrne strikes a remarkably strong balance between the extremely graphic terrors of Brent's plight with a "b-story" that actually propels the flick forward quite well. As Brent struggles with the advances of Lola and her slavish and slobbering papa, his girlfriend and some high school pals are out on the town .... and slowly putting all the pieces together.

The Loved Ones works as both a "scream 'n' squeal" style horror flick, but it also presents a crafty little "race against the clock" sort of kidnapping thriller. It's got several strong performances (especially from Xavier Samuel and Robin McLeavy); it looks, sounds, and feels like an indie import with a sense of quality control; and (best of all) it's got a few creepy wrinkles that (get this!) you might not be expecting. Yes, even you hardcore horror hounds.