March is the International Women’s Month, and so for the whole month, let’s look into the movies that highlight the strengths and triumphs of women. Let’s begin with this 2009 Australian comedy horror film which does not only reflect the prowess of a woman, but also the tragedy and brutality that her wrath can bring. Get ready for some mild gore and be up for The Loved Ones.
The Loved Ones begins with a vehicular accident on a road. Brent (played by Xavier Samuel) is driving with his father in the passenger seat. All of a sudden, a bloodied man appears on the middle of the road, and swerving to avoid hitting the man, Brent’s car crashes into a tree.
Six months later, Brent is planning to attend a high school dance with his girlfriend. He has initially refused an invitation to the dance by a girl named Lola Stone (played by Robin McLeavy). Unfortunately, this has become Brent’s big mistake as his refusal triggered a series of merciless violent ploys. The girl’s envy and fury go a notch higher when she sees him and his girl making out on a car.
So one day, while he was sitting on a cliff and listening to music, Brent is attacked from behind. Tied to a chair, he wakes up at Lola’s house sitting at a table. Around the table are Lola, her father and a lobotomized woman called as Bright Eyes. And yes, the party has just started. Lola’s father has turned the house into a dance for his daughter. Lola herself is a picture of a lovely girl with her wish coming true, with her pink cocktail dress and a matching paper crown. Isn’t that adorable? With her angelic and innocent face, who could have predicted what savageness she could do?
To mute Brent, she simply injects bleach into his voice box. She just smiles while he screams in silence. After Brent’s failed attempt to escape, she and her father simply nail his feet to the floor with knives. To prove her love, she just curves the letters “L S” on Brent’s chest using a fork, and then sprinkling them with salt. And finally, to lobotomize him, Lola simply drills a hole in Brent’s head.
Yet, Brent is not wavering, for every torture he suffers, he gets closer to freedom and to the secrets of his assailants. Predictably, Brent soon escapes successfully and with a twist of fate, he recreates the accident six months before. However, this is no more an accident, and when he swerves to avoid hitting another person on the street, he collides, this time not on a tree, but to (drum roll!) Lola Stone herself.
The Loved Ones is the first feature film for short filmmaker Sean Byrne. Yes, this may be another suspense horror film which can be summed up as kidnap, torture, and freedom or death ending. What sets it apart from the others is how the plot and the set were handled. The movie is not simply about human butchery for the audience’s entertainment; there are deeper layers to every torture and truths revealed. These scenes were managed with subtlety and “class”, making you cringe with fear yet not revolted or disgusted with each spill of blood. The movie creates so much tension and fright in the air, but it does not give you creeps on your stomach and bile. It also centers on a small cast only, unlike other such films which portray another Battle Royale or survival game. With this small cast, we get know each character deeper, making us love or hate them more each ticking second. And Lola Stone is a perfect little villain. Her mesmerizing eyes and cute smile, she is lovable. And whoah, her girly music “Am I Pretty Enough” turned me mad about her. With the glittering design of the set, hypnotic disco ball, the witty dialogues, ice-breaker subplots, and clever humor, The Loved Ones gives us a true way to enjoy a gore and suspenseful movie.
The Loved Ones is critically-acclaimed. It was screened at several festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and Dallas International Film Festival. As of February 2014, it garnered a rating of 98% at Rotten Tomatoes and 6.7/10 at IMDb.
Rating: I enjoyed the movie so five stars out of five for it. This may not be on the same boat as those historical dramas or breath-taking sci-fi movies, but The Loved Ones brings in pure genius and entertainment.