I’m a huge fan of foreign horror films, mostly because their horror movies are better than the ones made in the good old USA. So far in my exploration of foreign horror movies I’ve discovered the French are the most depraved (read my review of Inside), the British have great stories, the Japanese/Korean are weird, and the Australians are all over the board. The Loved Ones is an Aussie obsession film reminiscent of Misery only for high schoolers (the closest comparison would be to Swimfan but this is far better). At times incredibly hard to sit through, and with a very weak plotline, The Loved Ones is a fun teenage serial killer film with a fantastic and insane performance from Robin McLeavy.
High schooler Brent (Xavier Samuel) lives in a world of guilt after a car accident that took the life of his father, an accident where he was driving. On the eve of the school dance he gets asked out by quiet girl Lola (Robin McLeavy) but politely turns her down. Unfortunately, Lola doesn’t take no for an answer and abducts Brent for her own sadistic school dance.
As mentioned above, I love foreign horror movies, but I’m also a sucker for the obsessive girl films. Yes, I know they pretty much show women as either obsessive homewreckers or quasi-lesbians but I enjoy them. The Loved Ones takes bits and pieces from all the different tropes of these movies and doses them in heaping amounts of blood. Things happen to the poor character of Brent that you don’t expect because at some point you expect him to succeed in escaping. The poor guy gets knives embedded in his feet, messages carved into his skin with a fork, all of this leading up to a date with a drill being bored into his skull. At a certain point you’re just saying “this kid is a goner” and you’re all the more shocked because it’s unexpected for these types of movies. Xavier Samuel is a cute kid (who I confused with the guy from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie before realizing he was the kid from the third Twilight) but he’s not a solid hero. He’s quiet, bland, and hides behind the most hilarious wig of fake hair to make him look “edgy” and “morose.”
That’s not the reason to watch this movie though, the true stand-out is the evil Lola. Lola is nothing short of insane but it’s the best scenery chewing insane that really lets her go nuts. You originally think she’s kidnapped Brent because she likes him, and she does for a moment, but much like a toy she’s done this to several boys and she always gets bored. There’s an insanely annoying song that’s pretty much Lola’s theme song that’s a teenage girl’s lament about not being loved. It will definitely get ingrained in your head and makes you hate her all the more. The movie adds an EXTREMELY uncomfortable moment between Lola and her father (played just as creepily by John Brumpton) that pretty much sets the tone for their entire relationship.
The movie revels in the gore and torture but also in the concept of love itself. The very title “The Loved Ones” is different for each person as they cope with either loss or their approaches to rejection and acceptance of love. Brent is wracked with guilt over losing his father, but also can’t allow himself to love his mother or girlfriend. Lola fears rejection which compels her to kidnap and hurt those who hurt her, while also perverting her own loved ones like her father and mother for her own ends. Even the side plot involving Brent’s friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) and his date Mia (Jessica McNamee) shows the typical version of teenage love.
The Loved Ones is far more than expected yet doesn’t shy away from presenting the typical things you’d expect from a horror film: namely insanity and gore. Definitely check it out however you can (note it’s not available via Netflix)
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.