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The Loved Ones is a 2009 Australian horror film that wasn’t released in the US till 2012, when it got a limited theatrical release in June and then on to VOD and DVD in September. It is one of my favorite horror movies of 2012…

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is a teen suffering emotional scars from the death of his father from 6 months earlier. School is almost over and the ‘End Of School Dance’ approaches. But Brent’s life is about to go from one horror to another as he is targeted by the deranged Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) and her equally deranged father (John Brumpton) for a prom night of torment and torture. But is torturing a tortured soul a good idea?

What separates this from the recent torture porn sub-genre is that writer/director Sean Byrne crafts his horror with emotional depth and with some nicely and subtly intertwined story elements that I won’t spoil here. His script is both straight to the point and brutal, but at the same time, not without some dark humor weaved in between the horror elements and the gruesome moments. The characters that populate his tale are three-dimensional and come across as real people even if they are very twisted. He also fills the film with some very effectively designed shots to accent the intense and vicious goings on. There isn’t a bad shot in the movie and the film looks great. Even the soundtrack is like another character in the film as the songs and music are very deliberately selected and placed for added emotional resonance.

His cast members are all on target from Xavier Samuel as Brent, the wounded and guilt ridden teen who cuts on himself, but suddenly discovers a will to survive when someone else is doing the cutting. Robin McLeavy gives a tour de force performance as the deranged Lola making her menacing, but not without letting a cuteness and sexiness through, which makes her even more disturbing as she torments her ‘date’. She gives her character a fiendish quality and never goes over the top enough for the character to become campy. She remains menacing even when going full tilt psycho for the chilling final act. John Brumpton is her equally disturbed father who will do anything to make his princess happy and his character is given just enough restraint to never upstage the fruit of his deranged loins, Lola. The supporting cast all perform their roles with some nice emotional depth too, making everyone seem important to the story even before Byrne subtly lets us know why.

A terrific, clever and fiendishly entertaining Aussie horror film and a very impressive debut from Sean Byrne.

Check out “Why Do Good Scares Like Bad Girls?” for a closer look at Robin McLeavy’s character, Lola here. (Careful though, there are some spoilers.)

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bottles of drain cleaner…don’t ask.