Possibly the most violent and unrelentingly
gory film ever to scrape by with an MA15+ rating in this country, The
Loved Ones is a depraved, disturbing smorgasbord of sadism the likes
of which makes Hostel look like Mary Poppins.
The feature debut for Australian director
Sean Byrne, the film opens with Brent (Xavier Samuel, The Twilight
Saga: Eclipse) driving along a country road with his father in the
passenger seat. Swerving to avoid a bloodied figure who suddenly
appears in the middle of the road, Brent ploughs his car into a tree and
kills his old man in the process. A few months later the troubled lad
is asked to the high school prom by Lola Stone (newcomer Robin McLeavy),
a seemingly normal teen with a seemingly harmless teenage crush. Brent
demurs – he has a girlfriend, Holly (The Caterpillar Wish’s
Victoria Thaine) – and after a quick shag in his car promptly heads to
find some isolated bushland for a pre-dance toke and some alone time.
Turns out there’s nothing harmless about
Lola, or her creepily devoted and equally demented father (John Brumpton),
and the next few hours of Brent’s life are promptly made a misery on
account of his callous ‘rejection’. Kidnapped, trussed up and subjected
to a variety of mind-bogglingly inventive tortures, the poor lad is
forced to take part in a bizarre caricature of a high school dance with
Lola and her creepy daddums, in which having bleach injected into his
voicebox, both feet nailed to the floor and a DIY lobotomy performed
with a power tool are only some of the indignities on offer.
God knows what sort of childhood Sean Byrne
suffered in order to be able to conjure up such horrific torture porn,
but by the midway point of this shortish, barbaric feature the viewer
has been so unrelentingly assailed by savagery that watching the rest of
the film is more of ordeal than perverse pleasure. Samuel is excellent
as the beleaguered Brent, managing to grimace, drool and splutter
convincingly whilst maintaining carefully dishevelled hair and still
somehow looking handsome all the while, and McLeavy is mesmerising and
hugely convincing in her first major film role as the twisted girleen
hell-bent on revenge. The rest of the cast are also exceedingly able,
and the manner in which Byrne combines pitch black humour with the best
of Carrie and Wolf Creek is admirable, especially
considering this is his debut feature.
After a while though the gore becomes
tedious, at least for those of us who don’t relish the sight of
relentless suffering, violence and indignity, no matter how in-context.
A fairly superfluous subplot involving a friend of Brent’s and his Goth
prom date is tacked on to flesh out the already slender running time,
and while it adds a welcome sense of levity it eventually peters out
into nothingness. A little more emphasis on characterisation would have
been welcome, but then again those who like their horror supremely
grisly will likely find little cause for complaint.
Audio & Video
The 1080p anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen
transfer is faultless and colours particularly vivid in HD. Madman
seldom falters with their Blu-ray outings and The Loved Ones is
no exception – it looks brilliant, quite literally. The LPCM 5.1
surround soundtrack is also eminently impressive, packing a wallop and
giving all channels a decent workout.
The inclusion of plenty of excellent
supplementary fare makes this a hugely worthwhile release for fans.
It’s a bumper crop, and as far as local releases go The Loved Ones
has really been given the red carpet treatment from Madman.
On offer are:
- an audio commentary with Director Sean
- two of Byrne’s earlier short films,
namely Advantage (2007) and Ben (2001)
- an hour-long featurette with plenty of
cast of crew interviews (including Samuel and McLeavy)
- The Super Awesome Featurette: A
Runner’s Story (25:22)
- Toronto Festival Premiere and Q & A
- VFX and Production Galleries, and a
30-minute Visual Effects featurette
- Theatrical, Teaser and other Trailers