The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Brent (Xavier Samuel) lost control of the wheel when a bloodied teen suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. His father on the front seat, the car crashed onto a tree after Brent attempted to avoid hitting the person. Six months later, we learned that Brent’s father passed because of the accident. Still in a state of grief, Brent took solace in dating Holly (Victoria Thaine), a classmate who recently received her driver’s license. It was the night of prom and prior to Brent meeting Holly in the parking lot, he was approached by the innocuous- and plain-looking Lola (Robin McLeavy) and asked him if he wanted to go to the dance with her. Since he already had plans with his girlfriend, he had no choice but to refuse the offer, a decision that could cost him his life. Written and directed by Sean Byrne, for all the horrifying images in “The Loved Ones,” it was thin in suspense and even thinner in horror because every so-called scare appealed to the idea of being hurt by an object wielded by another person, whether it be a nail, a hammer, a knife, a fork, or a power drill. For the majority of its duration, we were forced to watch Brent experience all sorts of physical torture as if the camera had chosen to stay one of those underground rooms in Eli Roth’s “Hostel” but without the cheeky sense of humor and eventual purging of anger and vengeance toward the end that felt sufficient or satisfying. Despite Brent’s chiseled good looks, he was mostly bland. The screenplay’s attempt to communicate Brent’s sadness was at times laughable as he was constantly shown listening to death metal music with his 70s hair placed just so as to remind us that even though he was supposed to be suffering, it was still a beautiful image. That dichotomy did not work for me because this film wasn’t a silly commercial nor was it a complex drama. It would have been simpler and more powerful to show the teenager at his rawest, so angry and so demolished by what had happened to his dad, it seemed that he no longer cared about living. One good scene, however, was when he went outside with his dog, he decided to climb a rock, hang onto it and close his eyes. It made me consider what he was thinking. Perhaps he imagined a parallel life that was better, an alternate reality where his father was still alive and he did not feel so responsible. Or perhaps he just wanted to feel a sense of danger as a reminder that he was still alive, that it was all right to want to move on even if the memory and repercussions of the accident would be lodged in his brain for as long as he lived. It was arguably the best scene in the film because drama and horror, not the torture kind, worked together and it asked us to consider what could be happening in our protagonist’s head. Regrettably, the film had to deliver the blood and the screaming which eventually made me apathetic because of its redundancy. The torment in the chair coupled with Jamie (Richard Wilson), Brent’s sex- and pot-obsessed friend, going to the prom with Mia (Jessica McNamee) was a toxic combination. Every time the camera switched to Jamie and Mia, the built-up tension was sucked out of the screen. While there was one piece that connected Mia and Jamie’s night out to what was happening to Brent, it was only one and, if anything, it only felt like a footnote. “The Loved Ones” made me question its purpose. A lot of horror films are made to entertain–with a few exceptions like Srdjan Spasojevic’s “Srpski film” that is simply an affront not only to our senses but also to the art of making movies. Although horror pictures may involve physical pain, they can be enjoyed for reasons such as characters who are smart and plucky that we want to see survive or even characters that are so stupid, we want them to experience a gruesome death so they would stop being so annoying. They can even be enjoyed for technical details like interesting camerawork or great use of lighting to amplify a certain mood. I wasn’t entertained by this because the torture was coupled with humiliation. I felt sad and sorry for Brent. I didn’t feel like the writer-director loved his main character enough, just another young body to be mutilated.

10 replies »

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Fairly pointless Horror film which just ends up devolving into nasty, tasteless, torture porn. The soundtrack was the only thing this had going for it in my eyes.

    • Hi Sam! Thanks for visiting!

      Oh, man… I’m glad that the soundtrack worked for you because it absolutely drove me nuts! I’m talking about that song that played over and over. You know, that sullen-sounding girl which was supposed to reflect the inner sanctum of Lola.

  2. I reviewed this recently, nice to see other people have actually seen the movie. I felt very different to you, as I loved it. Really enjoyed it and felt it was one of the freshest and more unique horror films of the last few years. Great write up anyway, regardless of differing opinions its nice to see someone break down why they didnt like it rather than just say something is terrible.

    • Hey Tyson,

      Even if it kind of feels like we disagree a lot, I do take your recommendations to heart and will continue to do so. Looking forward to your future recommendations!

      Thanks for noticing that I don’t just blast movies, saying they’re “terrible” without explaining why. For me anyway, I don’t take an opinion seriously when reasons aren’t provided as to why one liked or disliked a movie. So I try to communicate the exact reasons as much as possible. =p

      • Hey no worries, be boring if we all agreed! I’m the same, I try and point out what I didnt like rather than just say something is awful. Keep up the good work and we will agree on something one day I’m sure :)

  3. Wow, you really didn’t like it! You must think I’m nuts for calling it my favorite movie of 2012! :) I can see how the emo stuff and the torture stuff could rub you the wrong way. For whatever reason the mix of glossy film style and grimy human sadness and insanity worked for me. Now I have to go see if you reviewed another of my favorites, Kill List, and what you thought of that one…

    • Curtis, you are nuts!! HOW is this your favorite movie of 2012? No way.

      Did you think that the villain is interesting? What about the main good guy? And what do you mean by “human sadness”? The screenplay does not allow us to care about any of the characters ASIDE from the fact that someone is being tormented physically. There is no context behind the torture. It’s like “Hostel” colored in pink.

      • SPOILERS: Yes, I am nuts! And yes, I love everything about this movie (except the Terminator-itis at the end). And I’m totally fine with you not liking it, so this isn’t an argument that you’re wrong and I’m right, just an explanation of why I liked it.

        I thought the evil girl was totally twisted, especially the incestuous jealousy thing with her dad. And the dad was amazing. The actor could have gone over the top and tried to compete with the girl’s craziness but he played it completely the opposite. I love the screenplay and think it (and the actors) did a great job at getting me to care for almost everyone. I think the torture is totally justified by the story. They never torture him just to torture him, it’s either functional (to render him mute; to lobotomize him) or as punishment for him not doing what they tell him to do. She’s a sadist, but the dad is doing it all for her (reluctantly to a certain degree). PLUS, the torture pays off a great irony in the story — this guy is a cutter, he tortures himself, and he’s arguably suicidal. But when he’s kidnapped, tortured by others, and going to be killed, he fights back because at his core he wants to live.

        What I also love about this movie (and it’s the same thing I love about Drive) is the filmmaker’s ability to be gritty and real yet be flashy and stylized at the same time.

        What I meant by human sadness is best illustrated by the depression and emotional isolation of the main character and also the goth girl that his friend takes to the dance.

        I could go on and on but if you want more of my opinions about why I like this movie so much, I wrote them down here:

        Finally, I’m happy that this movie is divisive. It means that the filmmakers at least had a vision and went for something. It either lands for the viewer or it doesn’t. That’s so much better than if they played it safe and made something mediocre and forgettable. IMO, of course. :)

        • Thanks for being more specific about what you enjoyed about it.

          Well, we may differ in opinion regarding this movie but I’m GLAD that one of us got something out of it. Maybe–MAYBE–if I give it a second viewing, I’ll read over again the things you mentioned prior and see if I am able to see them, too.

          • Cool, but do NOT subject yourself to it again unless you absolutely want to. I’m sure there are many more movies you could enjoy instead. Always love hearing your opinion, Franz!

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