It’s the ones you love that are the most difficult to put into words. I vividly remember watching this movie some ten years ago and absolutely loving it. At that point in time, I figured it was so popular that everyone must’ve heard about it. Today, I’m not so sure and this is the reason why I want to talk about it. The Loved Ones is a uniquely bizarre, disturbing, and darkly comical psychological horror movie from Australia. It follows a young man who, instead of going to the prom, ends up at the mercy of a crazy serial killer. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and the police are looking for him everywhere.
Now, a lot of people consider The Loved Ones a part of the torture porn horror subgenre. It was quite popular during the early 2000s with releases like Hostel and Saw. I think they’re not entirely right as there’s far too much meat on the bones here to think that. What I’m talking about are the characters that were so well developed that you can imagine several prequels to the movie and not run out of ideas. Their motivations and internal family dynamics are truly intriguing. Especially if you like movies about serial killers or you’re a true crime fan. Just like another Aussie masterpiece 2005’s Wolf Creek.
The Loved Ones is not a comedy but it has a strong humorous undertone. Since the story revolves around a group of teenagers and their coming-of-age issues, it’s reminiscent of all those eighties slashers. Additionally, it’s got that groovy eighties vibe permeating everything from the well-defined characters to the choice of music. And I really liked the music in this one as it’s mostly metal. Aussies sure do love their metal and if you want further proof just check out Deathgasm, an awesome horror comedy. The production values are excellent, the practical effects gruesome, and the cinematography top-notch.
Six months after a personal tragedy, Brent is still trying to get over it. The pain is so great that he resorts to cutting and drugs to numb it. Everything else, his pretty girlfriend or the end of high school, is almost meaningless to him. This also means that he’s not that excited about prom night as just a couple of hours before it begins we find him smoking weed alone in nature. Brent still wants to go with his girlfriend Holly, he just needs to be in the right place of mind. Then a figure emerges from the dark, puts a chloroform rag on his face, and kidnaps him. And so the nightmare begins.
The Loved Ones follows a couple of different subplots all unfolding at the same time and coming to a satisfying conclusion in one hell of a finale. The themes it explores are relatable and real and the movie doesn’t shy away from even the most controversial ones like self-harm. We have to talk about these things and demystify them. We have to recognize them and help people who are going through them. Although some of them are taken to their absolute extreme like rejection.
However, I would also add that they’re tied in with others that I don’t want to discuss. I want to keep things nice and spoiler-free for ya. This means I can’t talk to you about how this practice is actually still present or how this movie ties into the story. Highly effective and engaging, this is one of those movies that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Well, for the most part, as some of the scenes will be genuinely disturbing. As always, here comes the Martyrs reference, I keep mentioning that movie whenever I talk about fucked up stuff.
The Loved Ones effortlessly shifts from comedy to horror then drama then back to horror ultimately staying in the psychological thriller genre. It opens with a familiar set up but quickly starts veering off in the most unusual, creative, and surprising directions. You keep thinking that this is it, they’ve finally reached the peak but no. This is a movie that’s going to keep upping the ante with each scene being more of everything than the last one. Moreover, all of the things I’ve talked about are squeezed into an 80-minute runtime!
Sean Byrne is truly a master of his craft. Here, he focuses on one thing and one thing only: effectiveness. I tried watching his next movie The Devil’s Candy, a straight-up horror featuring even more metal but I didn’t like it. The cast of The Loved Ones was phenomenally good for such a young bunch. Of course, everyone is going to single out Xavier Samuel as Brent and our Princess Robin McLeavy. But what about our surly metalhead dealing with loss Mia (Jessica McNamee) or her boyfriend Jamie (Richard Wilson)? Finally, if you’re looking for more of the same I recommend Audition.
Director: Sean Byrne
Writer: Sean Byrne
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee
Fun Facts: The entire filming process was completed in only four weeks.