Don’t you just hate it when a film doesn’t quite live up to the expectations generated by its trailer? You wait months and months and then are left dumb-founded when the credits roll. Unfortunately The Loved Ones falls into this category.
The premise is enjoyably promising; high school hunk Brent (Xavier Samuel) dismisses the advances of loner Lola (Robin McLeavy) the day before prom only to regret it when he is kidnapped by her father (John Brumpton) to become the centrepiece in a very different kind of prom.
The Love Ones tries to squash in a lot of excess story into its 84 minute run time – Brent suffers from the guilt of accidentally killing his dad after swerving to avoid hitting a figure in the road but is soothed by the company of his loving girlfriend. When alone he chooses to dissolve his pain with the aid of drugs and music but this ultimately becomes his downfall. Best friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) provides the film with an unnecessary subplot which seems to be in constant battle with Brent’s prevailing woes.
Samuel and McLeavy are cast perfectly in their roles but the script doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with its creations. Finding himself suited up and sharing a party table with Lola and ‘Daddy’, Brent is soon subjected to an assortment of torturous ordeals as he becomes their prom puppet. The creepiness is palpable but directionless and when he is captured after trying to escape neither Daddy or his little princess quite know what to do with him. The story unravels from here on in; the death toll soon rises while Brent discovers that he’s not Lola’s only victim…
It’s hard to know what to make of The Loved Ones. Trying to be more than it is (there’s horror, high school, comedy, thriller as well as indie streaks running their way through the film), it ends up over exerting itself to exasperating effect. The end may be clichéd and the characters stereotypical but there’s evidence a good film is willing its way out of the mire. Writer and director Sean Byrne shows promise but his talents are diluted by his attempts to over-excel himself.
Reminiscent of the quirky Oz horror Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones may not be one of your most loved films but its attempts at originality are encouraging.
Best line: ‘You’ve got 10 seconds to go or Daddy’s gonna nail it to the chair’.
Worst punishment: Although the trepanning is pretty disturbing, the thought of being mute is horrifying.