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  Loved Ones, The One Bad Date
Year: 2009
Director: Sean Byrne
Stars: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Andrew S. Gilbert, Suzi Dougherty, Victoria Eagger, Anne Scott-Pendlebury, Fred Whitlock, Leo Taylor, Brandon Burns
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Six months ago Brent (Xavier Samuel) was driving his dad's car along this highway, with his father in the passenger seat as they discussed music and life in general, when suddenly a figure was in the road in front of them, and he had to swerve to avoid him. The resulting accident was never fully explained, nor why the figure was stripped to the waist to reveal a bloody torso, and now Brent is still having trouble coping without his parent, with his subdued mother little help. The high school dance is coming up, and he plans to go with his girlfriend Hollie (Victoria Thaine), so when he is invited by the quiet Lola (Robin McLeavy) he turns her down...

Which is either very sensible, or a massive mistake, as no matter which the story ends up badly for everyone. Inspired by the same wave of extreme horror from Australia as the likes of Wolf Creek and Storm Warning, The Loved Ones looked to have been the natural (or unnatural) progression from Take That's video for their cover of The Bee Gees' How Deep is Your Love?, only with far more blood spattered around. Lola, you see, is no ordinary girl, as she doesn't go about getting her boyfriends the normal way, she prefers to enlist the help of her doting dad (John Brumpton), who kidnaps the objects of her desire.

They are then brought back to their isolated farmhouse where Lola, or Princess as he calls her, stages her own personal high school prom, a little party where Brent finds himself tied up and suffering the effects of the dire duo's machinations. This includes having his throat injected with disinfectant to stop him making any noise, so you can imagine that he is not in a healthy place as the dinner turns even nastier. In truth, director Sean Byrne, whose debut feature this was after a number of shorts, has trouble finding anywhere to go once he has his premise set up, or at least nowhere to go that no other filmmaker has gone before.

Which means essentially a lengthy recreation of the scene in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre where the family get together with their victim - but not quite lengthy enough, as Byrne has to pad out his already brief running time with a subplot concerning a miserable Goth (Jessica McNamee) getting taken to the dance by a hopeful but somewhat hopeless friend (Richard Wilson) of Brent's. The connection is that Goth Mia is miserable because her brother was one of those boys taken by Lola and her father, but you could be forgiven for wondering why bother with her for such a large amount of time? Yes, her father is a policeman investigating the disappearances, but the whole thing smacks of one rewrite too few.

Nevertheless, as The Loved Ones does not hang about too much it is a brisk experience, and once it reaches its setpieces, pretty lusty with it. Predictably, it is at its strongest when placing its characters in peril, and McLeavy represents a well-crafted movie psycho as far as her performance goes, even if the psychology behind Lola would not stand up to much scrutiny. Maybe not such a problem if this were trying for the rollercoaster ride approach to horror, but not quite as effective when the impression is more that Byrne wanted the audience to take his views on teen peer pressure seriously rather than see them as the over the top stylings they really were. This film undoubtedly gained more interest thanks to Samuel's presence, as he went onto fame in Twilight sequel Eclipse, but even if he was simply in the (silently) screaming victim role here, he brooded enough to satisfy his fans.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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