The Loved Ones takes place six months after Brent’s father dies while Brent (Xavier Samuel) was behind the wheel. Still grieving, Brent’s only thing keeping him grounded is his loving girlfriend Helen. It’s time for the end of the year dance and Brent is asked to go by the quiet girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy). Little does he know though that Lola’s dad will do anything for his daughter…including kidnapping her unrequited love. From here, we truly meet the sadistic duo of Lola and her dad. It’s a twisted dynamic between the two that ramps up the intensity of the film. Brent is the unfortunate guest of honor at Lola’s very own homemade prom, and she doesn’t want to dance and drink punch, she wants revenge. While Brent is being tortured, the film cuts back and forth between Brent and his best friend Jamie who scored his dream date to the prom. While Brent is being sliced up, Jamie is getting high with his girl. Normally, I wouldn’t like being taken out of the tension of the kidnapping situation, but for The Loved Ones it really works. You’re simultaneously agonizing over Brent while rooting for Jamie.
First time director Sean Byrne shows his adeptness behind the camera with his character development and direction. The story of The Loved Ones isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but the way it develops feels original. Byrne uses gore nicely to ramp up the intensity of them film, but it’s never really about that. The driving component of the film is the characters. Xavier Samuel plays Brent brilliantly. He loses his ability of speech early on and the amount of emotions he can show just through his eyes is amazing. Stealing the show is Robin McLeavy as Lola. Turning an 18 year old girl wearing a pink dress into a menacing monster isn’t an easy task, yet she pulls it off with ease. Even the side characters are nicely established. I didn’t only want Brent to survive for his sake, but also his mother’s and girlfriend’s.
The Loved Ones was released in 2010 in its native Australia, but never got its American release until this year. It’s a shame this didn’t get a wide release here in the states, it could have done really well. We haven’t gotten to experience the brutality of a film like The Loved Ones in the theaters here in far too long.