Australia’s little horror opus, The Loved Ones, has finally come to the U.S.A, and there has been a lot of chatter about its gore-soaked goodness – from a cover story in Rue Morgue to the gleeful cheers and jeers out there in the blog-o-sphere. The Tavern of Terror got our hands on this creeper from down under and thought it was just ripe for reviewing, so strap on your feedbag, its time to dig in!
The film starts out with main character Brent, a brooding teenager with Johnny Depp good looks, who is recovering emotionally from a terrible accident. He and his girlfriend Holly are planning to go to the big dance when Brent gets a strange proposal from the school’s nerd girl, Lola. Brent politely declines, and he and his girlfriend get a chuckle out of Lola’s sudden interest in him.
Right off, we can tell that Brent has made a grievous error as we see Lola stalk the couple as they get it on in their car. During this scene, we notice that Brent wears a razor blade on a chain like a dog tag, which he sadly uses for self-abuse, working through his mental anguish in an unhealthy manner like many teens do.
Holly drops Brent off at home so they can prepare for the big dance. She does this by dolling up in a mirror to pop music, while he gets stoned and rampages through the woods listening to droning metal. It’s nice to see that gender stereotypes are steady in cinema worldwide!
Anyway, while roaming the badlands a hand full of chloroform wraps around Brent’s mouth and from here on the movie becomes a trapped by a sick family picture. Brent finds himself tied up in Lola’s kitchen as she and her deranged Daddy engage in their twisted games of torture and bizarre family rituals.
Meanwhile, we also get the side story of Brent’s stoner buddy taking the smokin’ hot goth girl (and Sherriff’s daughter) out to the dance, only for him to realize what a wastoid she is. You’ll wonder where this is going for a while, but it all ties together well in a very somber, cerebral way which you wouldn’t normally expect a fright film to go. Kudos to The Loved Ones for that.
But back to poor Brent and his torture, which is the bulk of the movie.
Lola and her pop are veterans of this sadistic shit and they have little traditions for these dance nights that they now make Brent suffer through, including flesh art and salting wounds. Meanwhile Brent’s Mom and his girlfriend get the Sheriff looking for him – hopefully they can make it in time before his captors’ DIY lobotomy procedure goes through! Holy shit!
The movie becomes lazy torture porn for a while, but it redeems itself a tad when…
CAUTION, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Brent breaks free using his trusty razor blade (but why he has it still after Lola and her Dad redressed him is beyond me). He gives ol’ Pop a nice Joker grin but Lola knocks Brent into a special pit where they keep all of Lola’s other “boyfriends”– this proves to be the most interesting and disturbing thing The Loved Ones has to offer. Brent’s lamebrain girlfriend finally, finally, finally remembers that weirdo Lola asked Brent out that day and she sends the Sheriff to her house. More carnage ensues until we get to the equally bloody finale which, unfortunately, is rather anticlimactic and more than a little silly.
Let me just say that I cannot stand torture in movies, unless it is truly relevant and important to the plot. Gratuitous torture not only cheapens the genre and makes it that much harder to defend, but it also is a very lazy method of freaking out a viewer. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to just show someone getting their toenails and teeth pulled out for an hour. This is why Hostel and Human Centipede films don’t appeal to me.
If a horror movie is going to use graphic torture as a central element, it needs to have a purpose, as in the gruesome masterpiece Martyrs, or it needs to be so over-the-top, batshit crazy that it manages to truly shock a hardened genre vet – as was the case with the revolting, ghastly genius of A Serbian Film.
The torture in The Loved Ones is not that creative or interesting, nor is it all that important to the story, but it is endless and brutal. The majority of the picture consists of these two lunatics shredding, drilling, and salting a teenage boy. While I enjoy the whole Texas Chainsaw Massacre approach of having a main maniac who was raised as such (and therefore doesn’t know any better), I still feel like this flick slips a little too far into torture porn for my liking.
However, the movie is very well directed and acted and it contains some ballsy and insane moments of blade-ripping splatter. The human monsters are truly menacing and the cinematography is frankly gorgeous. The film also takes a moral high road by showing the long lasting effects such atrocities can have on people, which in a way redeems it for being such a toenail puller of a fright film.
RATING: 3 out of 5. As far as twisted families go, this is not quite Psycho, but it is leaps and bounds better and brighter than mindless, modern schlock like House of 1,000 Corpses. I enjoyed many aspects of this movie but honestly had a hard time sitting through all that sadism.
CHICK OF THE LITTER: Mia (Jessica McNamee), who really is beautiful beneath all of that Hot Topic crap she has on.
While watching this little torture prom, we indulged in a rather befitting beer: Newcastle’s Werewolf, a seasonal “blood red ale”. This UK brew tasted a little watery and bitter to me at first, but like most Newcastle beers it tasted much better once I poured it into a pint glass. It also advises the drinker to enjoy it “cool” as the flavor is hidden when served too cold. Not bad, not bad.
This is a mild and nutty beer, enjoyable but not all that memorable, I must admit. Much like The Loved Ones, it was adequate enough to pass an afternoon, but this werewolf doesn’t exactly leave me howling for more.