Monday, November 12, 2012

Under 250: The Loved Ones

We're used to referring to certain kinds of horror films as 'torture porn'.  It's a brand of the slasher that seems to relish in the undoing of its sexualized characters.  Attractive teenagers are slowly dismembered or forced to endure painful, unthinkable, Inquisition-style devices as we look on.  There is something troubling and depraved about this sort of catharsis, yes, and many of the films that attempt to scrape new depths fall critically flat.  The Loved Ones, however, is a strange success. The Australian film (released there in 2010) is a rare blend of torture horror and actual teen film, a sort of twisted John Hughes coming-of-age interested in acting on wildly oscillating emotions instead of dealing with them.  Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks Brent (Xavier Samuel) to the prom, but he already has a date.  Frustrated with his rejection, she has her creepily loving daddy (John Brumpton) kidnap him and drag him back to their house for a mandatory, housebound prom.  Daddy buys her a pink dress, Lola is the queen, and together they begin to play a very disturbing game at poor Brent's expense.  It's a bizarrely comic scenario that embraces heavy gore as much as it relishes the weird, tongue-in-cheek growing pains beneath the surface. Director Sean Byrne has a way with violence, and while the film involves a fair amount of it: it knows its limits and understands the points at which the camera must pull away if the film wants to retain any hint of levity. The Loved Ones is dead on. It strikes just the right balance and is, somehow, a truly likable torture horror film that redefines the possibilities within the sub-genre.  File this one under: new cult classics.

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