Plot: Brent (Xavier Samuel) is a teenager who's been badly shaken by the recent death of his father. A shell of his former self, and prone to self abuse, the one bright spot in his life is his lovely girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine). This is bad news for Lola (Robin McLeavy)- the school misfit with a king-size crush on Brent. When he politely declines her invitation to the school prom- Lola and her father abduct Brent, and submit him to a cruel evening of torture. Brent's about to find out that whatever Lola wants- Lola gets!
Review: I had zero expectations for THE LOVED ONES when I saw it at the Fantasia Film Festival. The plot outline made it sound like some kind of Australian, teenage rip-off of AUDITION. Due to the enthusiastic recommendations of some of the fest's programmers, I decided to give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did! THE LOVED ONES has to be one of the best pure horror flicks I've seen in ages.
Nobody does balls-to-the-wall like the Aussies. For proof of that, you need only to check out the recent Aussie-sploitation doc, NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. THE LOVED ONES feels like a bit of a throw back to those old, classic Aussie horror flicks, like ROAD GAMES, or RAZORBACK. We even get a couple of car chases on long, desolate outback roads, which is a true Aussie hallmark of the genre if ever there was one!
Another good way to describe THE LOVED ONES would be to call it a psychotic re-imagining of PRETTY IN PINK. Come to think of it, the villainous Lola (destined to become a horror icon if this ever gets the wide distribution it deserves), has quite a lot in common with Molly Ringwald's character in that film. They're both unpopular, shy types with a fondness for the color pink, who carry a torch for the school pretty-boy. Heck, she even has a close relationship with her father, although here, that relationship borders on incest, and is one of the creepiest things about the film. As played by McLeavy, Lola's the scariest first date you could possibly imagine. In fact, I'd say she's almost too good, as whenever I see McLeavy in the future, I'll think of her torturing poor Brent, or stalking down an endless outback road, covered in blood, carrying a knife, and singing to herself.
As her victim, Xavier Samuel brings a lot of depth to his role. He's an eminently likable guy here, and you'll be rooting for him to escape throughout out, and cheering every time he manages to strike back at Lola and her father (as was the Fantasia audience I saw this with). Samuel actually played the villain in TWILIGHT ECLIPSE. Truth be told, I hated him in that, but his performance here just proves once again that the TWILIGHT players' acting talent cannot be judged by their performances in those films alone.
Also noteworthy is the the top notch, heavily stylized cinematography, and the excellent Aussie-indie rock soundtrack. Audiences with also enjoy a comedic subplot involving Brent's best buddy, Sac (Richard Wilson), who ends up on a wild date of his own, with the school's resident hot goth chick, Mia (Jessica McNamee). To some, this subplot might seem extraneous, but it relieves the tension a bit, and gives audiences a break during the strategically placed cut-ins.
Overall, THE LOVED ONES was a gem, and one of the true finds of this year's Fantasia. Hopefully, some distributor will see the obvious potential in the film to break into the mainstream, as it would make a perfect horror date flick. I dug the heck out of it.