(dir. Sean Byrne)
* First time viewing
Six months after his father is killed in a car crash, a young man is trying to rebuild his life when he’s kidnapped and tortured by a classmate he politely turned down for the school dance.
Mutilation, both of self and others, defines Byrne’s cinematic love song, which feels like a mashup of late 2000s emo-alternative rock and 1980s female power ballads. Brent goes from a victim of his own depression, self-mutilation and suicidal fantasies, to a victim by someone else’s hand, someone whose gleeful torture gives him the motivation to live. The Loved Ones takes pleasure in its own dark ironies, delivering a moral on embracing life that far outshines any of the similarly-themed Saw movies.
This parallel take on mutilation also carries over to Lola Stone, our queen of the dance, a perverse monster who is both innocently childish and violently sexual. She is of course the mutilator of Brent’s body, but her mind bares its own scars, made deeper by a father who gives into her every whim and has taught her that a boy’s rejection is torture in itself. It’s a slightly satiric look at fathers who treat their daughters as princesses, and girls who believe love songs and rom-coms are honest portraits, but The Loved Ones holds more truth than not.
Robin McLeavy is absolutely phenomenal as Stone, and every violent act, every word of spite is both horrific and oddly attractive—traits representative of some of the genre’s best villains. While many comparisons have been between this film and Carrie, Carrie White elicited sympathy and was ultimately a victim. Lola Stone is pure malice, someone we love to hate while anticipating her bloody end. School dance rejections may be a tired horror trope, but Byrne and McLeavy tap into the horror of trying to forcibly create romance in a tight space between two people who barely know each other.
Scare Factor: 3/5 The Loved Ones gloriously gory, stylish, and memorable. This little gem from Australia is one of horror’s best kept secrets.
You can watch the full movie free and legally courtesy of the Paramount Vault here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOnumfWyDQU