The Savage South Rises Again: The Loved Ones (2009)

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I’m bending the rules here on what counts as southern horror by expanding it to the land down under (so you better run, you better take cover).  The Loved Ones is a dark comedy/horror about a troubled young man named Brent.  Reeling from the loss of his father during an auto-accident, he’s on the verge of self-destruction.  His classmate Lola asks him to the prom, but is denied.  Brent is currently involved with someone else and this does not sit well with the obsessive Lola, who along with her father, kidnap Brent and submit him to a night of terror in order to make him become one of her “loved ones”.

lolaAt about twenty minutes in, this movie becomes much more about Lola than Brent.  Robin McLeavy (Hell on Wheels) does a fantastic job as the demented Lola and is very much up to carrying the film. She’s a pretty girl, but also very strange.  She reminds me of the Russian transfer student who came to my school in eighth grade and would rub her boobs on my back in the lunch line, but I digress.   One of the things I liked about The Loved Ones is the way it shows but doesn’t tell the history of Lola’s madness and the effect it’s had on her family.  The domineering daddy’s girl has used Jeffery Dahmer’s zombie creation method to lobotomize her own mother and her reversed Oedipus complex has her father wrapped around her finger.  The two kidnap boys for Lola to make out with, torture, and murder.

loladadThe dark humor of this situation is really what makes this film work.  It’s the horror movie answer to Pretty in Pink.  The borderline incestuous relationship between Lola and her father, and the fact that he’s helping her in her demented prom hosted in his kitchen highlight how messed up and funny The Loved Ones is   John Brumpton (Romper Stomper) is hilarious and creepy as the bug-eyed, doting father who is doing everything for his little girl.   Xavier Samuel (Twilight Saga) as Brent plays the victim well.  Even though his character as thin as a sheet of paper, he sells the seething anger and resentment towards his captors well

This is the first film from writer-director Sean Byrne, and he does an admirable job for a first outing.  There is a sub-plot about Brent’s friend going out on a date with a wild girl, and while these scenes are entertaining and a contrast to Brent’s own hellish prom date, they don’t have anything to do with the main story and seem to be tacked on just to pad the run time.  I understand their inclusion but feel they should have tied into Brent’s story at some point.  As far as direction goes, there really isn’t a bad scene in the whole film and some of the images are iconic.  Byrne has a lot of fun making the grimy kitchen into a prom hall, complete with a shining disco ball that he makes excellent use of throughout the films run time.  The Loved Ones is a fun watch, even if it is a bit shallow, with one of the more memorable film villains in horror.

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