OPTIMUM RELEASING (UK) (2009)

Director: Sean Byrne

Starring: Robin McLeavy, Xavier Samuel, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Andrew S. Gilbert, Jessica McNamee

Clocking in at a cool 85 minutes, The Loved Ones doesn’t mess about – in terms of pacing and story. Director Sean Byrne’s first feature length is a violent, merciless movie, but it also has its fair share of black humour to loosen things up from the carnage at Lola’s house.

 

Far from being simply ‘torture porn’ (what a ridiculous name) The Loved Ones gives something different - a fresh take from the prisoner-is-tortured-brutally movies that this will be linked with. A big reason is that it’s entertaining – the sadistic pleasure Lola takes from being in charge and the hell she is committing is enthralling to see, the side story of Paul and Mia and their evenings events lend some lighter moments and the joyfully wacky ending divert the movie from simply being 85 minutes of pure misery and depression – thankfully.

Robin McLeavy is remarkable as the unhinged maniac Lola, who stops at nothing to get what she wants. As mentioned previously, the sadistic glee she portrays is palpable and captivating – she steals every scene, and not just because of the vibrant pink dress. During the movie, I found myself believing McLeavy was indeed a real psychopath such was the immensity of the performance. A really great horror baddie!

Xavier Samuel and John Brumpton are more than convincing in their performances as the victim and cold father and as a collective really propel the movie forward. Gilbert and McNamee are also fun and reliable in their side roles.

 

Visually the movie looks great, the almost 70’s décor of Lola’s house offset against the hot pink dress (and crown) and the ‘school dance’ decorations around the kitchen with the not-quite-bright lighting really create a visual delight. Brent’s house always seems to be drenched in shadows, and even the school dance is pumping with dim lighting.

 

The movie is brimming with clichés – the not quite dead people, the ‘she’s behind you’ moments etc. – but somehow, somehow The Loved Ones manages to blend these seamlessly to the point that they aren’t a distraction – maybe it’s the acting, maybe it’s the engagement, who knows – but I never felt myself rolling my eyes during it. It’s as if Byrne is having fun including these oft-seen horror moments. Having the story that Lola has terrorised the community actually lends an air of tragedy to the story as multiple stories and roads lead back to Lola and her lustfully murderous ways, rather than conveniently tying ends up or connecting unnecessary stories.

 

The premise that the pain of his father’s death actually gives Brent the strength to try and fight and survive his hellish ordeal is a nice addition, and again softens the blow of the hell they put him through. I also enjoyed how the sidekick got the girl at the prom and the handsome kid was tortured and abused by the girl he rejected – a nice little trick.

 

I genuinely enjoyed this movie and it has a lot going for it, even in its more unoriginal moments, it’s still near impossible to take your eyes off what is happening. The Loved Ones is a gruesome, violent and fun horror movie, lending a lot to the wonderful performance by McLeavy – you won’t want to miss this one.  Just think twice about turning down a potential prom date…

 

Good luck getting Lola’s favourite song out of your head too.

October 28th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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