Still blaming himself for the death of his father, 17-year-old Brent (Twilight alumni Xavier Samuel, above) takes solace in smoking dope and the affections of his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). But after he turns down his classmate Lola's (Robin McLeavy) invitation to the prom, things get considerably worse. Turns out Lola, nicknamed Princess by her warped father known only as Daddy (John Brumpton), isn't quite as innocent as she seems. Rather, she's a psychotic combination of Annie Wilkes from Misery, Carrie from, well, Carrie and Hedy from Single White Female. Lola gets her daddy to abduct Brent and bring him back to their isolated home where they have their own `prom' complete with torture, cannibalism and things you never want to see done with a drill. Ever.
Coming from a background in commercials and short films, writer/director Sean Byrne has made an incredibly stylish and original feature in The Loved Ones. From the arresting pink satin of Lola's dress to the glitter and sparkle of the demented prom, he has made a glossy product to rival the sheen of any Hollywood production. Considering The Loved Ones was made on a budget of just $4 million makes the feat even more impressive.But what really separates it from the mediocre horror mob (besides the kick ass Aussie soundtrack) is Byrne's characterisation. The sadistic and severely insane team of Lola and her daddy will go down as iconic horror movie villains to rival the likes of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Of course, they would be nothing without the talents of McLeavy and Brumpton. McLeavy's performance, in particular, is reminiscent of John Jarratt's turn as Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek. Despite limited dialogue, Samuel too is amiable as the protagonist and his pain, both physical and emotional, draws the audience behind his plight to escape the duo and seek bloody revenge.
Given the success of The Loved Ones overseas, so far it has been officially selected in over 20 international film festivals, comparisons between other Aussie horror success stories like Saw and Wolf Creek are inevitable. While it too has a black humour sensibility that is iconicly Australian, it also manages to find that rare balance between gut-wrenching gore and white-knuckle suspense so many other filmmakers seem to overshoot.
The Loved Ones is a rock 'n' roll horror film unlike anything this country has seen in a long time. It's a glam, gory and goofy experience that for once is not an ordeal for horror audiences to sit through.
The Loved Ones is out in cinemas tomorrow and you can watch the trailer below. Stay posted for my exclusive chat with writer/director Sean Byrne coming in the next few days.