THE LOVED ONES
Ah torture porn, have we seen enough? Can we really expect anything new from this genre? Is there still life in it, is it really possible to add a fresh new approach to an idea which surely has limited ideas and seems to be quickly using them all up fast? Well, watch the Loved One’s, and then ask those questions again. Here is proof that yes, torture-porn, over saturated as it is, can still be fresh and, more importantly, can still be relevant. The odd few come along that still have new ideas and fresh, unsettling ideas. Take the recent The Collector, for instance, or the now banned Japanese sick-fest Gruesome, and you can also look at the French with their highly intelligent Martyrs. Labelling a film as torture-porn often alienates true horror fans these days as people are looking for something more than just a bunch of torture scenes with no real story, Hostel, take a bow! However, i believe true horror fans will still look into a film labelled as such, in the hope it just might break new grounds. All hail Australia and the seriously twisted, but fantastic The Loved One’s, a, dare i say it, torture-porn horror with a difference. The main difference is that this film IS actually scary, and more often than you would probably wish for, it is deeply unsettling.
It’s a short film, and doesn’t waste too much time in introductions or past history. In fact, our main torturers are barely explained or justified, they are just incredibly sick and we have to accept that, now and again, that’s just the way people are. We do get a history of our most excellent victim, who has one of the most unpleasant and disturbing screams i have heard in some time. His name is Brent (excellently played by Xavier Samuel) and we learn that 6 months prior to these events, he swerved his car in the country to avoid a person in the road covered in blood. His Dad also being in the car, Brent was the only survivor and he is really struggling to deal with the guilt. His Mum also seems to blame him, and in the brief moments they spend together, these emotions are used to maximum effect and will bring out some quite powerful feelings from the viewer. The signs of a director clearly in control and able to do powerful stuff with the most minimal of things, director Sean Byrne is most definitely one to watch. The poor lad has even started cutting himself with a razor he has hanging around his neck, something which comes in quite useful later on. He has a passionate relationship with his girlfriend, and the two share a powerful sex scene in their car in the first ten minutes. It is clear this is an extremely volatile relationship as the lad seems more intent on the possibility of suicide than anything else. In a truly wonderful and incredibly powerful scene which speaks volumes, Brent climbs some rocks in the woods till he almost gets to the top. Once high enough to kill himself, he decides to hang by one hand, hold his head back and see what happens, see if he has the guts to let go and end his suffering. With the powerful music, you really get involved with his feelings and really feel sorry that he has got into such a bad way.
There is a subplot which goes on parallel to the victim’s story, and fun as it is, I can only assume it was added to give the viewer a bit of a breather from the intensity of the main plot. A clever move by the director and it works, really well. The whole film soon becomes based solely around prom night, and where things all go wrong for Brent, the subplot is about his best mate trying to get with the girl of his dreams. Being the daughter of the local sheriff, he has to play his cards right and behave, only to bring out the booze and weed once at the prom. It’s a pleasant little tale that goes just the way you want. The same cannot be said for Brent. The subplot adds some much needed light hearted comedy and you strangely become quite attached to the two characters. So, moving on to Brent and his unfortunate experience with a girl named Princess, played, almost too convincingly by Robin Mcleavy. Remember her name now, for she has big big things ahead of her after this performance.
Princess desperately wants to take Brent to the prom, but he has his own girlfriend and has no interest in Princess, much to her annoyance Over protective Daddy decides this won’t do, and that his little girl will be happy and he will do everything he can to make sure this happens. Daddy is played by John Brumpton, and a mere raising of his eyebrows is enough to send shivers down your spine. It is he who kidnaps poor Brent, and ties him to a chair at the dinner table, all for the love of his deranged daughter. Daddy has bought Princess a pink prom dress, and in a rather uncomfortable scene, there are hints as to the strangeness of their relationship. Wanting to see how the dress looks, Princess asks Daddy to watch as she strips off and outs on her dress. The way Daddy watches, the sparkle in his eye, the perverted look up and down, hints at dark secrets which are never revealed, merely suggested. The suggestion is enough, so I think it was a clever move by the director to leave it at that and allow you, the viewer, to make up your own mind. This is where things turn nasty, as we join Daddy, Princess, their old half dead Mother, and poor Brent as he dinner table. Echoes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre can be seen here. The Mother has a hole in her forehead, and she does not look well at all.
It is not long before the violence starts, and would you believe it, it all starts because Brent refuses to eat a chicken leg and call in “finger licking good”. Princess forces the chicken on the poor lad, but he doesn’t want it. In a bizarre turn of events, as Princess becomes more evil, she actually becomes more attractive. Is this a good thing to admit? Probably not, but it’s true, she really does look better as the film progresses! Now, refusing to eat the chicken, Daddy steps in, and he casually walks over to another table, grabs a hammer, comes back to the table and sits down, placing the hammer gently on the table. The fear and panic that sets in just by this simple movement is brilliant. He barely says a word throughout the whole film, and I often find the less said the better, and for Daddy, a simple look into his eyes assures you he means business. It’s a cold, chilling performance by John Brumpton, and one that will stick with you long after the film has finished. Princess is the wild, on the edge crazy person who is capable of anything, Daddy is clearly the brains, everything is intended and he will get what he wants no matter what. This kind of intensity and determination is often ruined in horror by someone trying to be more than they are, John Brumpton plays it inch perfectly.
Violence follows, and even though it is sickening and shocking, it never goes too over the top and stays within the limits of believability. Taking it’s pacing from the likes of Wolf Creek, the torture builds slowly, with most suggestive bullying at first, and then all of a sudden all hell is let lose! You knew it was coming, but you may not have expected it to be so brutal and so vicious, and there is something to be said about the constant smile on Princess’ face as she watches, joins in, and loves every minute. The poor lad spends almost the entire rest of the film simply screaming in pain. I will not go into too many details, but there are a few scenes that will upset even the most hardened horror fanatic. Let’s just say a hammer, two knives and a foot come to mind, as does a drill and a kettle full of boiling water! The film becomes vicious, incredibly vicious and with all the added threat and bullying, you would rather die than be in this poor lads position, I promise. Kindly though, just when things seem to be getting a bit too much, we cut back to the prom and the other poor fella who is trying desperately to get with the sheriff’s daughter. Like I said before, it’s a genius move to give you, the viewer, a little breather before going back to Daddy and Princess’ dinner table, with the disco ball spinning above it.
Time, then ,to stop with anymore plot spoilers and simply say that the Loved One’s is one of the finest horrors to have emerged this year. In fact, it can sit alongside the likes of House of the Devil, The Objective and (Rec)2 as further proof that straight to dvd horror can, and does offer up some of the best stuff in the genre. The Loved One’s is also proof that with this, and the likes of Wolf Creek, Rogue, hell, even Road Train, the Aussie’s pull no punches when it comes to horror and generally come up with genre defining ideas. I hold my foster’s high in the air in a toast to the gruesomeness from down under! Miss this at your absolute peril, if you are a true horror fan, you simply must watch this!
[pt-filmtitle]The Loved Ones[/pt-filmtitle]