After losing his father in a car wreck in which he was driving, Brent has been going through immense growing pains trying to deal with his dad's passing. Without a clear clue as to how to handle the pain that comes with such a loss, Brent (Xavier Samuel) has become slightly rebellious, resorting to self-inflicted physical pain to try and help cope with the hurt that he feels emotionally. Brent is a shell of what he once was, however, his relationship with his girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine), is strong, and she would seem to be the best medicine for the infinite sadness that surrounds him. As bad as things have been for Brent, things aren't looking to get any better as an admirer named Lola (Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the prom, an offer that Brent respectfully declines seeing as he is going with Holly. Not one to take no for an answer, Lola has Brent kidnapped so they can enjoy their own personal prom at her home, complete with disco ball and her father (John Brumpton) playing chaperone.
Now, imagine if the Letherface clan from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 impregnated Annie Wilkes, then nine-months later she had a wittle baby girl and named her Carrie. Well, that's kind of the best way to describe The Loved Ones. The first feature film from writer/director, Sean Byrne, The Loved Ones is an Australian horror film with a wicked black sense of humor set primarily in one location. That location being a kitchen, living room, and dinning room combo made up to look like a prom only a psycho could appreciate. And psycho is no less than the perfect descriptive for a girl such as Lola, a twisted young lady that is not portrayed as a complete loser but more of a nobody, or at least somebody that really doesn't matter in the big scheme of high school.
As opposed to many lonely losers in high school set horror films, Lola is never shown getting picked on or belittled by her classmates. The only time she is really seen before her homemade promenade is when she actually asks Brent to the dance. While it's clear that she's not really the type of girl anyone wants to chill with on a hook-up level, Lola's not completely pathetic looking, either; she's just plain. Her motives for kidnapping Brent have nothing to do with revenge nor is there any need to fill a void left by being unwanted. It's much deeper than that as she has issues that delve well into a world of delusion as she has a need to control the people around her. Specifically with the relationship she shares with her father, which is one that floats an incestuous line where her domination is one part sexuality and another part daddy's little girl.
It's all quite sick and deranged, but as much as this film is twisted, The Loved Ones is filled with humor that is so dark, you might want to watch with a flashlight handy. A lot of where the humor stems from is due to a wonderfully sadistic and decadently mad performance put forth by Robin McLeavy as Lola. The Loved Ones is quite simply a perfect example of a black horror comedy, and the balance of the horror and humor in the film exactly mirror that of the character of Lola. Here is a movie that is funny enough, it's brutal enough, it's serious enough and all without any one of those individual elements being too overbearing. The comedic elements never take away from the horror of the situation, which is very important because there is a level of emotion brought to the table with some of the characters, something else that's never played off too heavily, either.
As I mentioned, Lola is not portrayed as a complete waste, in the same token, Brent is not shown in a light that is negative, either. He's not the bully that you actually want to see get his just desert, instead, he is a pretty sad kid that is easy to feel sorry for, thus making him truly the victim in this situation. Brent is actually one of the few cinematic rebellious teens that doesn't completely irritate me, which is rare with most films of this nature. A lot of that has to do with Brent being someone that Byrne clearly wrote in a manner that respects the character and doesn't feel completely disconnected from the teenager as a real life entity. This is an area that can really hurt a film such as The Loved Ones, so it's nice to have characters that, while not breaking any boundaries, are well realized.
Spending much of the time in one location, The Loved Ones never overstays its welcome as things move along fairly quickly without too many lulls. Things are broken up with minute story lines following Brent's mother, as well as Holly, both of whom are clearly concerned for his well-being (which is only compounded by Brent's slightly suicidal state of mind). Another tool that is used to break up what could be the monotony of a long torturous dinner table scene is a side story focusing on Brent's pal, Jamie (Richard Wilson), who is on a date with the hot Goth chick, Mia (Jessica McNamee). The time spent with these two characters seemingly has nothing to do with the film's core, yet, it is all handled in a way where it doesn't feel boring and works to break things up unobtrusively. Furthermore, even if it seems there is no connection to the main story, there is a pretty heavy reveal that puts a small emotional punch behind Mia's rebellious motivations as well as something that connects her to the main plot.
The Loved Ones is not the most original picture to have ever been put to celluloid, but what's in place works and works wonderfully for the type of film that it is. It's not always an easy task balancing horror and comedy (let alone black comedy), but Sean Byrne has certainly come out swinging with this one, and I believe a lot of that has to do with him showing respect for both the genre as well as its fans.