Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Release Review : The Loved Ones


Like most indie horror flicks that are worth watching, The Loved Ones has traveled a long hard road to get to us here in the states.  Made in Australia back in 2009, The Loved Ones has been raking in fans on the festival circuit and on foreign home video markets for the last few years.  The only difference between this one and so many low budget little indie horrors that take years to get proper distribution is that the offers were there early on, but the production company held out and waited for the best possible deal, that would give the film the widest possible exposure on the US market.  That's how strongly they felt about the product, and the appeal it would hold for audiences.  After waiting several years, the film was finally picked up by Paramount Insurge, and at long last came to Region 1 DVD on September 11th.

So is the film indeed worth watching?  Was the wait worth it?


Sean Byrne's The Loved Ones is essentially a story about one small town's senior prom, and the three very different experiences three different teenagers are having with it.  We've got Jamie, who is having a Dazed and Confused sorta night, getting drunk and high in the parking lot with the rocker chick he finally worked up the courage to ask out.  Then we've got Brent, who is having a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sorta night, and whose night most of the film focuses on.  Ya see, Brent was asked to the prom by a mentally unstable chick named Lola, who he rejected on the grounds that he was going with his girlfriend, Holly.  As a result, Brent ends up spending prom night with Lola and her twisted family, who give the Sawyer clan a run for their fucked up money.  And then we've got Brent's girlfriend Holly, who spends her night with Brent's mom, both worried sick and wondering where Brent is.  So we've got these comedic, dramatic and horrific elements all playing off each other, and surprisingly, it all works pretty damn well, creating a wholly unique and sadistic little experience that's one of the bright spots for the genre in 2012 (even if it was made back in '09...).
The thing I absolutely fucking love about indie horror is how oftentimes unpredictable it is, and The Loved Ones is the absolute personification of that.  Studio horror films have rendered the genre as a whole completely predictable, tired and formulaic, and these days it seems like it's the little low budget indies that are the only ones pushing the envelope, and bringing anything unique and new to the table.  I know that it's been that way for a long time now, but it's never been more clear than this year, where pretty much every studio horror film (aside from Cabin In The Woods, which ironically attacks studio horror) has been the same run of the mill boring crap, movie after movie.  Those films are only concerned with making money, which is really the difference between studio horror and indie horror.  While studio horror has to play by certain rules in order to cater to the masses, indie horror filmmakers have the freedom to do absolutely whatever the fuck they want, which results in films like The Loved Ones, that are actually fun and refreshing to watch.  And The Loved Ones is damn fun to watch, a demented and disturbing roller coaster that never lets up, the way horror movies should be.

Now the unfortunate thing here is that so many horror fans seem to stick to watching studio horror, and waste their 140 characters endlessly bitching about how terrible the genre is.  Year after year.  "The genre's dead!" ... "The genre's not what it used to be!!".  No, the genre's not dead.  It will never be dead.  And if you think it is now, or ever, you really need to stop watching and giving your money to shit studio horror.  Because guess what?  Good horror movies are still being made every year.  And they always will be.  You just aren't likely to find them playing alongside the big budget blockbusters at your local theater.

Point being, I feel like we all give so much of our time and attention to crappy studio horror films, that we forget sometimes to heap praise on the good stuff, and spread the gospel on those movies that are actually worth talking about.  (I know I ranted about this on the Facebook page earlier in the week, so if this all sounds familiar, bear with me!).  Good horror movies come out each and every year, but all I seem to ever hear horror fans talking about is how shitty big studio remakes and direct to DVD sequels are.  To that I say, think outside the box.  Yes, the shitty films will always outweigh the good ones, but the good ones are still always going to be out there, they just may be harder to find.  So stop wasting your time hating on the crap, and go out and seek out the good stuff.

The good stuff.  That's exactly what The Loved Ones is.  It's one of the good ones, one of those horror films that come along each year that make the wading through all the crap worth it.  I know I've spent a lot of time here ranting about the perceived state of the genre, and not so much talking about the movie, but that's mostly because I don't want to ruin any of the fun of what goes down in it.  It's a short film, at just under an hour and a half, and to really talk any more about it aside from spelling out the basic plot would potentially ruin some of the fun.

That said, I must mention that the performances all around here are incredible, with the standout being Robin McLeavy as Lola, the sadistic chick at the bloody core of the film.  Lola is a character that won't soon be forgotten, joining the ranks of crazy chicks the likes of May, Carrie and Asami Yamazaki in the annals of great horror movie femme fatales.

Also gotta give props to the soundtrack, which is very diverse and unique.  There's one song in particular that will now forever be connected to this movie in my mind, and which I will probably be wearing out on YouTube in the coming days.  The wife's probably gonna think I'm Buffalo Bill'ing around in my room with my dick tucked between my legs when she hears the lyrics "Am I not pretty enough?" emanating behind the bedroom door over and over, but so be it.
Bottom line is, this movie is awesome and you need to seek it out.  Australian horror continues to impress, and The Loved Ones is but further confirmation that the Aussies know what they're doing when it comes to blood, guts and torture.  The horror genre hasn't exactly had a very strong year this year, but this is one of the ones that we'll all be looking back on as one of the best, come the end of the year.  It's finger lickin' good!


The DVD screener I was sent came along with these goodies, which I loved before I saw the movie and love even more now that I've seen it, and understand their significance.  In fact, I may or may not be wearing the crown as I type this.  I'd totally be your king, Lola.


WilliamNavidson said...

Up untill right now I was sure that this movie was about kids at prom fighting zombies.

Johnny said...

If you're looking for that, check out Dance of the Dead! ;)

Jason said...

Hey i watched this last and thought it was great. Very well done. A few spoiler thoughts: was it me or did this film have a slot in common with The Descent? I am thinking the opening scene and the things under the floor. Also the subplot with Jamie did not have any type of pay off. I do not get the point unless to provide a comedy break from all the torture.

Johnny said...

The Descent did definitely pop into my mind during the underground scenes. As for Jamie's story, I felt it was in there for a couple reasons. One, to provide a break in the tension and cut away from the horror every so often, thus making the return to that horror all the more impactful, and also to just show the difference between Jamie's 'normal' prom experience, and Brent's not so normal prom experience. So I dug that they had those sub-plots, because without them it'd just be nonstop torture and horror for an hour and a half.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.
Trick or Treat, The Hole and now The Loved Ones.
All great movies that have taken far too long to get released into the U.S. market.
Okay so we all had to wait for Trick or Treat, but the other two I saw last year (possibly even longer ago, the mind is going with age)and yet someone, somewhere presumes that these movies won't have a market. yet they are ahppy to regurgitate the same movie under a different title time after time.
Seriously after watching any off the three movies I've mentioned would you chose Saw VI or Paranormal Activity 2 at the flicks given the choice of only choosing one.
The genre market is not dying, it's not even stale. It's being put in a sack like unwanted puppies and drowned by the guy who believes he can't afford to feed them. Someone always wants puppies!

Johnny said...

It's funny because it's gotten to a point where you can be sure that any horror movie that gets shelved for years is gonna be a movie that's actually good. It all comes down to mass appeal. And unfortunately, since everyone keeps going out and supporting them, those generic run of the mill garbage horror movies have that mass appeal that movies like Trick 'r Treat and The Loved Ones don't.

If The Loved Ones was released in the same amount of theaters as something like The Possession, The Possession would out gross it many times over. What we as hardcore horror fans like is totally different than what the general movie going public likes, so that's really what it all boils down to. Sucks for us, because there's a ton of great movies out there that we can't see, simply because they're not the kinds of movie that studios or DVD distributors would make much money off of. All about the money.

Murderous Melissa said...

Omg I'm absolutely in LOVE with this film!please please tell me how to get my hands on one of those screeners and the promotional goodies!?!im dying to get one!

Anonymous said...

But why are they shelved?
The way movies are distributed is changing.
Don't think it'll bring in the bucks at the flicks, then let Netflix/Cable/DVD have it instead.
If it's good then word of mouth will make it a hit. if it's crap then it'll fade away.
What is the point on keeping it unreleased?
You're right it is all about the green.
But if yoou buy a movie, you've out laid the cash - it sitting stagnating doesn't do anyone any favours.
Movies have to be MASSIVE flops these days to not recuperate their money, with possibly John Carter being the first movie in 20 years that won't make it's costs back, so if you've got a little genre movie tucked away release, stick a label on it saying "the movie they tried to supress" - there you go X amount of people will want to see it straight away.
As I said before, feels of kilter, in fact it feels like I'm in "The Emperor's new clothes" and until someone comes along and changes the way film makers can distribute their films without the distributor or studio sticking their noses in, we're stuck with it.