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Movie Review: The Loved Ones (2009)

‘The Loved Ones’ screens in Australian cinemas from 4 November 2010

I find it strange that an Australian movie with Australian actors is already on DVD overseas and it hasn’t even shown here in Australia yet.  Lucky for me I caught a media screening of it earlier this week.

Nevertheless, The Loved Ones will no doubt generate plenty of interest for one big reason: Xavier Samuel (you know, that boy Riley from Twilight: Eclipse — it seems anything remotely Twilight related will kick up a storm these days).

In The Loved Ones, Samuel (who is almost unrecognisable without his Bieber haircut from Eclipse) plays Brent, a grief-stricken 17-year-old who is asked to ‘prom’ by a seemingly shy girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy).  When Brent refuses in favour of his girlfriend,  it becomes the worst mistake he’ll ever make in his life…

The Loved Ones has been described as Wolf Creek meets Pretty In Pink, though to be honest it reminds me of neither.  It’s a teen horror that feels eerily familiar, probably because it takes elements from a lot of other torture-porn horror films like Hostel, Saw and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As a result, while there isn’t anything completely like it as far as I know, it just doesn’t feel particularly fresh or original.

That said, it still provided some very decent scares (particularly visceral ones that challenge you to not look away), and I must admit there were a couple of nice little surprises thrown in there that I hadn’t expected.  The characters, especially the antagonists, are not well-drawn out at all (we needed more time with them in the ‘normal’ world), but they certainly are twisted and demented.

Not all of the scenes and dialogue worked in my opinion — they were a little clunky in some parts when you could tell the intention was to make the characters creepy, except they weren’t.  However, later events and sequences definitely make up for it.  The film is probably a lot more clever than I give it credit for.

As far as low budget horrors go, this is certainly one of the better made ones, especially by Australian standards.  At a trim 84-minutes, it gets straight into the action, wasting very little time from start to finish.  And despite there only being a handful of characters, everyone had a purpose and all the subplots were tied together nicely.

One of the things that annoyed me for some reason was the deliberate Americanising of the school aspects of the film.  Even though it is set in an unknown part of rural Australia, for some reason the school reminds you of every American school you’ve seen on TV, from the casual clothing to the lockers to how everyone runs out a second after the bell rings.  That decision, perhaps to connect with American audiences more, took away some of the Aussieness of the film.

Ultimately, The Loved Ones isn’t anything special, but if you want to be scared and disgusted (in a kind of fun, entertaining way), it should have no problem getting the job done.  If not, just watch it for Xavier Samuel.  He’s actually very very good in it.

3.25 out of 5