If there was a pop-culture reason for America to have a kick-ass foreign policy, I dare say it would be the survival of the horror film. Overseas horror has been kicking ass over the past few decades, and I’d argue with anyone that, with the exception of a few spirited independents, and the occasional studio homerun (Cabin in the Woods, anyone?), that foreign horror is where the genre is flourishing. The Italians did it in the 70s and 80s, Asian horror ruled the 90s, and in the “aughts,” the French have commandeered the splatter genre. Now, a new horror film has reared it’s head from down-under: Sean Byrne’s amazing The Loved Ones.
Like a John Hughes-meets-Wes-Craven amalgamation of Hostel, Pretty in Pink, and The People Under the Stairs, Byrne’s The Loved Ones is a much-needed shot in the arm to the genre, reminding us all that there is a perverse joy to be gained from a horror show such as this; it’s no horror-comedy, but The Loved Ones provides as much of a thrill-ride as it does a splatter show.
The Loved Ones concerns itself with the senior dance at an Australian high school. Brent (Xavier Samuel) is the “big man on campus,” a preppy jock who is also a decent, nice guy. Trouble begins for him when he turns down Lola Stone’s (Robin McLeavy) invitation to the dance; he’s already got a date, so he politely declines. Things quickly spiral out of control when Lola’s father (John Brumpton) kidnaps Brent for his daughter and forces him to attend a special senior dance at the Stone House, with only himself and Lola in attendance.
To say ANYTHING else about the plot would quickly spoil the joy that The Loves Ones has to offer, but I will say this: go watch this film now. If you can’t find it at your local store (it hasn’t had an offical American release yet), don’t panic, for this film is slowly making its way into America. The Loved Ones is really a rare treat – a film that brings some fresh blood to the table, while coyly playing with the conventions we’ve come to know and love. The real highlight of the film is Robin McLeavy’s star turn as the damaged Lola. Her performance is brave, ferocious, and really, a sight to behold. Lola is a character that is every bit as fearsome and enjoyable as Angela Bettis’ May (2002) or Beatrice Dalle’s “La Femme” (Inside, 2007). Here’s hoping that this role leads to a long and prolific career for Miss McLeavy.
The Loved Ones is an awesome treat from some amazing Aussie filmmakers, and horror fans should not hesitate to track this one down. It’s a fun, ferocious romp with a kick-ass soundtrack (if there is any justice in the universe, the full soundtrack will get a release someday) and some awesome performances – with some great, practical (non-CGI) gore to boot. If you thought Carrie or Prom Night were the ultimate in school-dance horror… think again. You’ve got a date with Lola, and it’s gonna be one long night…
Nathan Erdel is studying telecommunications at Indiana University. An actor, writer, and filmmaker, Nathan is currently developing “Mr. Dark’s Tales of Terrifying Things,” a horror program hosted by Bloomington’s own Pretorius Dark. When he’s not perusing record stores or questing in his life-long search for the perfect wheat beer, Nathan is serving as one of the organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Fest (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com).