The end of year school dance is a difficult time for teenagers and the experience can go many ways. The Loved Ones shows us the pretty unique experiences of two teenage boys on the night of the school dance, one who can’t believe his luck and one who probably thinks he’s in hell.
Brent, played by Xavier Samuel (well known for his turn in a certain vampire franchise), is the one who ends up in hell after being kidnapped by Lola (Robin McLeavy), the girl he turns down after she asks him to the dance. Instead Brent wants to go with his girlfriend, the pretty and sweet Holly (Victoria Thaine). This might seem understandable but Lola is not the kind of girl who takes rejection well and with the help of her father Eric (John Brumpton) she kidnaps Brent and the the father-daughter pair take him home and begin to torture him.
Meanwhile Brent’s friend is having the best night of his life. After the ‘hot goth girl’ from school, Mia (Jessica McNamee), agrees to go to the dance with him they drink vodka, smoke weed and have a fantastic head banging session in his car (I suspect Byrne is a metal fan – note the classic Metallica T Shirt Brent wears). When they finally go into the dance Mia is all over him.
For a lot of the running time this side story, to the main story of Brent, seemed a little unrelated but Byrne pulls everything together in the final act. This side story is also quite important to the pacing of the film. At 84 minutes the film is short and sweet but rather than letting the film fly past too quickly Byrne uses Brent’s friend’s night as something of a contrast to what is going on in Lola’s house. These sequences almost become like pillow shots, slowing the film down in the right places and giving the audience time to breathe.
The torturing of Brent and Lola really is the centre-point of this film though and the character of Lola the star. McLeavy is obviously relishing the opportunity to play this sick and twisted teenage killer and the devilish glee embodied in the character thanks to the writing and her performance really make the film. The performance by John Brumpton as her creepy father and their deeply uncomfortable relationship add to the squirming feeling that the film so often delivers on. Expect to want to look away a lot during The Loved Ones.
The Loved Ones is delightfully demented at times proving that horror can still be fun and entertaining without slipping into tired self referential clichés. Byrne also clearly has a knack for turning the mundane into the horrifying. The film’s goriest moments come from the simplest household items, a hammer, an electric drill, a knife and a kettle. He really knows how to use them though. The Grand Guignol on offer never lapses into the extreme and there are some gory moments at times but Byrne knows when to hold back and let the audience’s imagination do the work. He also knows that an uncomfortable and disgusted sensation can be achieved merely by an awkward situation and the threat of violence. Who would have thought that a film could have such such an unbelievably tense scene that rests on one guy trying to relieve himself.
The Loved Ones has a lot to offer in wit, style and entertainment and with a UK Premiere at FrightFest later this month I’m sure it’s going to go down an absolute storm.