Welcome back our guest post writer, Romina!
The Loved Ones is an Australian movie which was released in 2012 and from what I understand it’s a bit of a hidden gem in the world of teen horror films. The star, Brent (Xavier Samuel), is a typical 17 year old having his first taste of adulthood via the mediums of sex, drugs and punk rock but like all good protagonists he is a little tormented by his past. Though I do say protagonist, it’s fair to point out that as far as acting goes Brent is more like the supporting male to Lola’s (Robin McLeavy’s) Hamlet, ‘cause she’s the movie’s chassis, frame and engine, everything else is the fluffy dice hanging from the mirror.
At the beginning of the film Brent is shown driving on a dirt road with his dad as the passenger. Insert horror movie cliché #453 in the form of an unseen/unexpected, tormented and bloodied person walking in the middle of the perfectly straight road, forcing Brent, who was distracted from the chat with his dad, to swerve and hit a tree (there’s always a lethal tree in the middle of nowhere. Cliché #454?) Sadly, dad dies in the collision.
Fast forward six months to the night of the end of year dance and Brent looks decidedly less healthy, racked as he is by the guilt of the death and what he presumes to be his mother’s blame. We are never explicitly told this but it is pretty heavily implied. Despite his poor mood, shoddy appearance and love of substances Brent has both a pretty, sweet girlfriend and an admirer in the form of Lola; Lola makes a sudden appearance when she decides to ask Brent to go to the dance with her that night, but he turns her down in favour of his girlfriend, with whom he crucially shares the information about the invite while they have sex in her car while Lola watches. Creeptastick and ominous but I’m often left wondering just how oblivious people having sex in cars are to the world at large.
Whatever the case, one of the good things about this film is that it was a study in on-point film making; all the required information is there with little scene wastage. There was even a thin story line that ran parallel to the main one which had me wondering, but even that was tidied up nicely by the end, though some might call it superfluous.
Back to the point however, after Holly drops off Brent at home from school, he has a little bust up with his mom over her not wanting Holly to drive them to the dance, so he takes off and goes rock climbing in a ravine near his back yard. While sitting at the edge of a cliff after having decided against killing himself (careful what you wish for kiddo), someone puts a cloth with ether over his mouth and proceeds to abduct him. His mum and Holly are alerted to something being wrong when the dog who was with him at the time, turns up at the house bleeding after being stabbed. The dog’s acting skills left me a little cold admittedly, but like Jar Jar Binks he has his role in the game. All the same, the police (officer) is notified and he begins to search the area for the lost teen.
Cut to Brent coming around in Lola’s kitchen in a house in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’ve never been to Australia, and though the interwebs says the film was made in Melbourne and though I might not know Melbourne’s particular topography, from what I understand from having consumed Australian popular culture, having a farmhouse in the proverbial desert surrounded by tons of dirt ain’t all that uncommon. This setting is part of what makes this movie successful because it allows the atrocities to take place in a more or less private setting with small chance of discovery unless the policeman knows where to look.
So back to Brent. He wakes up in aforementioned kitchen tied to a chair dressed and pressed (in the immortal words of Mary Poppins) in a black tuxedo complete with frilly buttons ready to go to the dance; sadly, this is not the actual dance with all the other kids but an entirely private shindig, put together by Lola’s dad (John Brumpton) in the comfort of their secluded home, complete with home made banners and revolving mirror ball. As soon as Brent gets his bearings we see Lola dip a syringe into a blue bottle, fill it up with a similarly blue liquid and inject it into Brent’s neck. This bit admittedly left me a little stumped as the blue bottle looked commercially run of the mill, but I fear you have to be Aussie to get the packaging reference. From watching it I thought she was trying to drug him into submission but after a thorough search on the information super highway I found that it was in fact bleach and she was injecting it into his voice box to stop him from screaming. The purpose of that ploy was probably more geared towards showing us the familial pair’s evil intentions rather than the liquid’s effect ‘cause judging by where they were, screaming wouldn’t have done him much good anyway. Considering that painful torture ensues, perhaps it was needed because Lola and dad had sensitive ears.
As the evening progresses it turns out that Brent is not Lola’s and dad’s first abduction, particularly after she shows him an album of other missing boys to whom they appear to have given similar tortuous treatments in the past. We are led to believe that with each milestone of Lola’s school career her current crush has been abducted and brought into their home for some torture and mayhem. My only gripe with this is that though the police are aware of occasional disappearances of kids in the area (exclusively boys), only one police officer is mobilized in the search and eventually goes to the Stone house to investigate after being tipped off by the girlfriend.
In order to avoid giving all the plot away I will say that I really enjoyed this film despite its inevitable clichés. Though it did have a few flaws it was well constructed despite the commonly used abduction/torture theme which it admittedly turned on its head by having the teenaged girl as the big scary bad guy-and she is very scary!
I particularly enjoyed the quasi-incestuous dynamic Lola had going on with her dad which though utterly creepy throughout, was rendered with enough mastery to not appear crass or exaggerated.
What I did find I sorely missing from this film was some back story into the father daughter super team and the events that led them to developing their screwed up relationship; this bond is highlighted further by the existence of Bright Eyes, the mother figure, who is allowed to partake in the earlier part of the evening by being force fed some fried chicken. This wouldn’t be a big deal if she wasn’t in a catatonic condition (which we are led to believe they have caused before the full story becomes clear) and if she weren’t also being held prisoner by her family. I would have preferred to see the build up to that, than the antics of Brent’s friend and his randy girlfriend at the dance, though I understand they were being used as comic relief in contrast to the mayhem in the Stone household. All the same the back story would have made this film much more complete for me and much more praiseworthy as a work. Never the less, it was very good effort and far removed from similar works of American origin. I know I say this often about non US made films but it had a level of grit that only non American film makers can impart.
Well worth the watch for lovers of the genre. Daddy Stone is definitely the $100 note in the dash.
Romina Nicolaides is a lover of History and Horror, two interests she has combined in the creation of the Affliction Series of books, a re-examination of the Vampire genre with a more realistic and scientific perspective and which is set in a multitude of real and imaginary European locations. The series offers a more existential approach to the field coupled with sensational plot twists and fascinating characters. The first book in the series titled Bathory’s Secret, revisits the legend of the 17th century Hungarian mass murderer Erzsébet Bathory. You can find more work by her on her blog: https://bathoryssecret.wordpress.com/
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