Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.
Sean Byrne‘s 2009 directorial debut The Loved Ones, may just be a low-key stroke of genius in the sense that it is uniquely horrifying, over-the-top, and darkly funny, all while being quite unique. It’s a low-budget, primarily one locale film, which allows its sadistic nature to feel claustrophobic too.
Lola (Robin McLeavy) wants her prom and she wants it her way. With the help of Daddy (John Brumpton), she’ll get it at any cost. However, her dates, including the newest Brent (Xavier Samuel), are in for a terrifying night.
When troubled and grieving high schooler Brent is asked by Lola to go to the prom and he declines (to go with girlfriend Holly Victoria Thaine), he’s kidnapped and brought to Lola’s home for their “special” night. This isn’t the first time she’s done this, and what unfolds is darker and sicker than you can imagine. Daddy, along with a lobotomized woman they call Bright Eyes is also there to celebrate the occasion.
What pushes this beyond a usual torture flick is not only the bizarre story, and the totally unhinged Lola, but its witty script. I won’t sugarcoat the fact that this film is utterly disturbing at times, as the acts portrayed are truly deranged. The addition of terrific sound design and a twisted villain in Robin McLeavy makes The Loved Ones nightmare fuel of a different sort.
It’s an impressive debut feature from Sean Byrne that is wildly entertaining even if you’re watching some sequences through splayed hands. The movie also bursts with color and music, showing the contrast between the bloody truth of the circumstances to the sadistic joy Lola gets from it over its brisk but energetic 84-minute runtime.
I like when movies are unexpectedly wicked, but also when they fully commit to their intentions. This was most definitely one of those occasions.
Some of the actions feel a bit repetitive, but through surprising and shocking turns, and dedicated performances The Loved Ones is a darkly comic, twisted horror gem.