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The Loved Ones (2009)

Written and Directed by Sean Byrne

   Summary: After the loss of his father, Brent (Xavier Samuel) has turned to smoking pot and becoming some sort of adrenaline junkie whose stroll outside to climb cliffs one afternoon becomes near fatal. Though not for the risk but rather from being taken by Lola’s father after declining to go to the dance with her, later that night. It seems Princess (Robin McLeavy), as she’s called by her father, didn’t take too well to rejection. Informed of going with his girlfriend Holly, (Victoria Thaine) he’s drugged and taken back to their house where Lola uses her dominance over her father to do her bidding’s  Though he also doesn’t seem to mind. Having made a pattern of taking boys hostage and having her way with them, they maintain most of the nights events at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre themed table. Bedazzled out, Pretty in Pink style, Lola comes to the decision that this too, had been another frog and therefore, must be put with the others. Taunted, tortured and turned (almost) into nothing more than a zombie, Brent fights his way out and makes it, which can’t be said for a lot of the other characters.

   The opening scene certainly rang in a familiar tone with the hitchhiker and whatnot. Sean Byrne’s father is apparently a film critic, so he was sure to pay homage to a small variety of films that blended well within the story-line. The movie rest heavily with McLeavy, who was an excellent choice for Lola, I just wish the end hadn’t happened! While it does seem far and in between that we are given a sinister enough woman to find terrifying, we were instead graced with such, in teenage angst form! What a great idea. If not for her solid performance then the movie would have failed completely, there’s no doubt of that in my mind. The director was able to capture her in beautiful purples and pinks while torturing a boy that she harbored delusional fantasies over. Her room was equally covered in eerie accessories and endless cutouts from magazines on her wall. And if that wasn’t enough, when they unveil the basement with the others, my inner Horror fan went crazy for a quick second. A great kept secret that disappointed in only not being able to see anything further done with such great characters.

   It is a short film though unfortunately lagged a bit for myself in certain parts. Which most might contribute to the sub-plot thrown in, though I actually enjoyed it. It was sure to break at all the right parts and transition between the other story, making for a good tension builder, as I’m sure it was intended for. Because even if you’re not sure why your viewing these seemingly two misfits intermix with the other, if you pay enough attention, everything unfolds itself as the movie continues. But I’ll do it for you anyway. Jamie (Richard Wilson) was friends/dealer to Brent and had grown excited when crush Mia (Jessica McNamee) said yes to attending the dance with him. Mia’s brother, Timmy Valentine, was “the one that got away” as mentioned by Princess later in the film. The Sheriff, whose father to both Mia and Timmy, which if you haven’t figured out by now, was the hitchhiker. Though having isolated her parents, Mia couldn’t care less as she encourages her and her date to get wasted, as opposed to making an appearance at school. Though they end up making a small debut either way that ends up getting them kicked out and okay, good for a laugh at the situation itself.

   The music was woven into the script better than I expected. It was often loud and incorporated using their surroundings but that seemed to make each scene stand out more. Great visuals were as well shown through the entire film. The slow, lean in from Lola when Brent first awakes at the table was a great example. The addition of the disco ball made for a great pattern against the wall and the close-ups of her when she would do or say certain things, whichever they were at the time, were always good in adding to her menacing behavior. The nod to TXCM as Brent ran through the laundry lines outside was nicely portrayed. It goes on until near the end when Lola is dragging herself against the pavement, that far panned out shot as she slowly moved forward was so comical yet impending. The relationship between her and her father was portrayed exactly as I would imagine. Even the bit between them when they dance at the end was foreseeable but they didn’t take it too far; though laid out enough to show what the audience needed to see. John Brumpton didn’t have many lines as the father but what he lacked in that department, made up for in the realm of creepy glares and the great interaction of a man far past his mind and trapped within his own perversion of his world by glorifying his daughter.

    Xavier Samuel had a great look about him and made for yet another good choice for a “survivor guy.” The things he has done only get worse and to not be able to use his voice to fully demonstrate his emotions gave him the added challenge of having to sell his expressions and actions as opposed to anything else. Though the thought of him surviving the ordeal, after what he had been through, seemed to be even more torturous. Writer/Director Byrne had McLeavy study various outlets for “inspiration,” including Misery, Jeffrey Dahmer and some Quentin Tarantino films. Though everything came together in the end for myself, the last shot of the film could have been tightened up. It felt like it loomed longer than should have and while the last “hit” still comes with a small jump, it could have been done sooner than they made it. Either way, one that shouldn’t be missed and a great first film from a Director that I look forward to seeing more from.