AFTER numerous delays, The Loved Ones (2009) is finally being released in Australian cinemas this week – and it’s absolutely worth the wait.
The film opens with Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuel), a regular teen who seems happy enough with life until he meets with a car accident. Swerving to avoid hitting a blood-drenched young man who appears out of nowhere, Brent’s car crashes into a nearby tree, killing his father, who is in the passenger seat.
Blaming himself for his father’s death, Brent becomes increasingly withdrawn from those around him, including his grief-stricken mother and loving girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine).
Fast-forward six months and it’s time for the school dance. When the pretty-enough but nevertheless near-invisible wilting wallflower Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to be her date, he politely declines, and tells her he is already going with Holly. But Lola has her heart set on Brent as her date, and finds another way to ensure she has the coveted “night of her life”.
Establishing and cutting between a range of stereotypical teen angst archetypes – the stoner, the goth, the pretty girl and the wallflower – The Loved Ones at first glance seems to adhere to a fairly standard paradigm for a coming-of-age drama. But when Brent is attacked and abducted, it becomes increasingly clear that “typical” and “standard” are precisely what this film is not.
Brent wakes to find himself tied to a chair in his tux, in front of him a table where Lola, her father (known only as “Daddy” in the film) and “Bright Eyes” (Lola’s home-lobotomized mother) are sat down to a dinner of take-away fried chicken and chips.
Dressed in the pinkest of pinks you could possibly imagine, complete with glitter eye shadow and satin heels, every detail is carefully orchestrated by Daddy to please his little “princess”. Only “Daddy” is an incestuous serial killer, and “Princess” is Daddy’s little girl.
Ordinary schoolgirl by day and seductress serial killer by night, Lola is the product of seclusion, growing up on a big property in a small rural township.
Owning and marking her victims with her own personal stamp – a type of “drawing” she carves on their flesh with a fork -Lola has a scrapbook full of memories. And as if they were going steady, Lola proudly showcases them to Brent, and explains the frustrations she had felt in her past relationships. None of the boys she had chosen ever came close to “the One”, the Daddy she has idealised; and and as a result, those boys had to suffer.
What follows is nasty, and there’s a liberal amount of blood-letting, but there’s some sense to this violence. If anything, the violence represents a gruesome manifestation of teen angst and raging hormones, as well as the breakdown of cohesive, functional familial structure.
With gusto, Brent repeatedly tries to escape Lola. His endeavours are believable, which creates a great deal of gripping suspense.
Refreshingly dynamic for a horror movie, The Loved Ones offers a genuinely exciting form of kitsch-horror. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most enjoyable and entertaining theatrical releases of the year.
The Loved Ones opens in cinemas November 4.