“The Loved Ones” has been described as “Sixteen Candles” meets “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. This 2009 Australian movie has won the hearts of many critics with its good acting and humorously dark characters. However, where it becomes a mixed bag is in the Eli Roth-style torture scenes that serve no purpose. The movie is like a roller coaster, at times there are high points of originality and fun, then it takes you to into a dizzying low point of exploitation.
Brent, played by Xavier Samuel, was in a car accident with his father six months ago. His father died and Brent spends his days smoking grass and cutting himself to alleviate the guilt he feels. He is asked to the school dance by Lola, played by Robin McLeavy. He turns her down since he has a girlfriend. Brent then finds himself kidnapped and held prisoner at Lola’s house where he is tortured and forced to become Lola’s date for her private dance in her home. Will Brent escape this insane family?
The positive side to this movie is that Robin McLeavy is really great at playing Lola. She can be menacing and adorable at the same time and her interactions with her father are both funny and disturbingly awkward. You can tell she is having fun with her role. The interactions with Brent at the dinner table seem like a homage to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” this time with a disco ball overhead and the insane Lola being crowned queen of the dance by her equally insane father.
On the other hand, there are scenes of torture that really are too much. Lola carves a heart on Brent and throws salt on the wound. They pin him to the ground by hammering knives into his feet. They screw a hole into his head in an attempt to lobotomize him. At what point is the gore just filler? Often it comes off as exploitative and it takes you out of the movie.
“The Loved Ones” is a mixed bag. It certainly has good acting and some original concepts that make it enjoyable. Then there are scenes that are painful to watch. It’s just not scary to watch another person get tortured. Because it’s a movie, and you know it’s fake, and movie tortures are always so over-the-top, it takes you out of the movie. It’s worth a rental if you are REALLY into horror. If exploitation film isn’t your cup of tea then I’d give this one a miss.