The horror genre has thrived on various subdivisions of the subject matter on film over the years. From the paranormal, to the supernatural and even straight serial-killer realism. One corner of the market that has existed for years is the ‘torture’ sub-genre, a form of terror that gets viewers to squirm in their seats as main characters or other victims are helplessly subjected to extreme means of violence.
The trail could lead back to the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in which a female victim watches her friends get eviscerated by weapon-wielding Leatherface and then has to endure her own ordeal in order to survive a frightening dinner table sequence with the entire family. The sub-genre really experience a resurgence when Saw hit the map in 2004 and spawned six sequels that came up with inventive ways to maim and painfully kill characters off through tortorous devices. Hostel took things a step further, depicting vile, but wealthy individuals who pay money to enflict all kinds of violence on kidnapped victims.
Since both series concluded, there hasn’t been any significant contenders to the concept until now with The Loved Ones, released by Paramount Pictures’s independent film division Insurge. Filmed in Australia, The Loved Ones stars Xavier Samuel (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) as Brent, a grief-stricken and self-mutilating teenager recovering from the loss of his father in a tragic accident. But Brent soon finds himself the kidnapped victim of a crazed classmate named Lola after he rejects her invitation to the prom.
Held by Lola and her father, Brent soon endures more pain than he could have ever imagined as Lola enacts her own twisted and bloody version of prom night, intent on adding him to the list of the number of boys who crossed her before within her scrapbook of victims known as ‘Loved Ones’.
The beginning act of The Loved Ones behaves like a very artsy and eccentric film that might make you unsure of where it’s going to go. But once Brent wakes up in the clutches of Lola, there’s no mistaking that as a viewer, you are in for a rough ride of extreme violence and bizarre human behaviour. The Loved Ones is incredibly graphic and mind-numbingly intense, with some of the most brutalizing torture elements ever put to film.
What makes it unique is that unlike other typical fare, Brent is a male victim subjected to a female villain and gets a serious wake-up call to the consequences of being a self-mutilator who normally welcomes pain. Ones has far more character depth than the souless Saw films, or the exaggerrated Hostel movies. Every bit of violence and terror here feels real and not manufactured, while Lola (played with a wonderful crazed-viciousness by Robin McLeavy that could rival Kathy Bates in Misery) may go down cinematically as one of the greatest female killers/villain in horror movie history.
Where the film loses its way a little bit, is a sub-plot involving Brent’s friend going to the prom with the school’s resident ‘goth chick’ with some mental baggage of her own. The scenes are met to provide some comedy and to give viewers a break from the horrific experience of the main storyline, but other than that they serve almost no purpose. The film tries to justify the angle by offering a connection to Brent’s accident that killed his father and one of Lola’s past victims, but it relatively goes nowhere by film’s end.
Writer and Director Sean Byrne has otherwise crafted an effectively disturbing and squirm-inducing horror film that definitely pulls influences from some of the classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Prom Night, and even 2006’s The Descent and turns them into strengths. While Xavier Samuels should be given his own credit for a tough acting performance that contains very little dialogue.
The Loved Ones is released on a very impressive standard definition DVD disc. The technical presentation is rock solid as the movie possesses a very strong and clear picture quality that is nice on color and clarity even in the darker night scenes. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track is also effectively specific and powerful for such a small-oriented horror film. The hard-rock music and the bone-crunching sound effects enhance the experience even further and adds more nuance to the subject matter unfolding before your eyes.
In terms of bonus material the DVD does not contain a whole lot to peruse, but there are three distinct interviews with both Xavier Samuel and Robin McLeavy providing their thoughts on the film and their characters, and also the head FX makeup artist, Justin Dix, who sheds some insight into creating certain visual gags for the movie.
A Night To Remember
The Loved Ones certainly leaves a lasting impression on a viewer and is one of the most cringe-inducing torture horror films ever made. It’s wildly disturbing and engrossingly brutal, but executed with much more care and thought than some other past studio films backed up by bigger budgets. The movie isn’t perfect, but does deserve a horror fans’ attention. From a technical standpoint the DVD is a great way to view the film although it comes up short in the bonus material. All in all The Loved Ones is a worthwhile venture in the realm of the horror genre.