Monday, September 17, 2012

The Loved Ones (2009)

Typically I patiently await my Netflix rentals, no matter if they actually ship on time or if they go into the limbo of short-wait, long-wait, unavailable, or otherwise unknown release/ship date.  But when it comes to movies from the Outback (or from France) I can't wait.  They have simply been too good for me to pass up.  So, as soon as I saw that The Loved Ones indeed did not ship the day before its projected release, I promptly removed it from my queue altogether and secured a rental at the local grocery through Redbox.  Again, something I rarely feel compelled to do, especially when I know the genre is in the torture vein--something I don't care that much for, no matter how well done.  All this to say, my expectations were high, and by the time I got the movie started I silently demanded it to deliver.

And boy did it deliver!  From Lake Mungo to The Clinic to The Loved Ones, these Aussies know how to make a movie!  Everything is evenly balanced: pacing, lighting, thrills, character chemistry, backstory, and so on.  Going into it, I knew the basic plot: an obsessed woman kidnaps her prom date and tortures him like crazy.  And, well, this is mostly true, though if you want to quibble in semantics it's not technically what happens.  Which is nice, because as soon as the action begins (and it begins fairly early) there's a nice little twist on the presumed plot.  But then I saw the running time was pretty early in the film, and I worried that it would degrade into trashy, mindless torture for the duration.  And while it pretty much does deliver a lot of trashy torture, the movie swings back and forth from setting to setting, all in linear time, to show how his (the captive's) mother and girlfriend are coping with the disappearance; his hilariously awkward buddy and his goth prom date; and a police officer who is put on the case to find him.  All of the performances are strong enough to keep the film alive and entertaining.

Speaking of his hilariously awkward buddy and his goth prom date, this film dishes out black humor from start to finish.  The first glimpse of the tone this film would take while delivering its vicious torture sequences was when the captor stops by a chicken place to pickup dinner!  I figured this would be a one-off little gag, but it is the first of a series of hilarious moments of black humor that I want to watch again and again, making this not only a great film to watch alone; but also a great film to watch with a group.

Now, let's talk about our antagonist, Lola (played by Robin McLeavy).  Wow.  What a performance.  She is twisted, evil, relentless--yet brilliant, perfect, and mesmerizing.  I always welcome a gender twist on this genre, and I believe this might be the best performance I've seen to date.  McLeavy's first couple appearances on-screen are nothing if not clichĂ©, so again I worried that this film would fall into the pit of dross with countless other films.  On the contrary, Lola shines as many different personalities.  At first, you think she's a little girl trapped in a woman's body, depending on her daddy to make her dreams come true--so, a sort of shy innocence that will endure throughout the film.  But you quickly find that she has a commanding, aggressive, violent bent, in addition to some illicit father-daughter propensities.  To sum it up, this is one evil femme fatale who stands apart from all others I've seen (on-screen and in real life).

So, as if it weren't enough for me to hear two clips of Parkway Drive's music a couple times, The Loved Ones pays strong homages to a classic of modern horror, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  In the end, I was thoroughly entertained and walked away with a great cinematic experience.  If you even remotely enjoy the torture genre (and no, this is not torture-porn), you're going to welcome The Loved Ones with open arms.  If you like horror movies in general and you're interested to see what these Aussie's have done with a genre that is running out of gas, you're going to be thrilled with this film.  And if you're worried that this is another take on remaking Prom Night, put it out of your mind--only about 3 minutes of the film take place within the venue of the prom (the goings on just outside, however, are utilized aplenty and are more than welcome).  Here's to yet another treat from the land down under!

Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment