The Loved Ones (2009)

Prom night can be torture

Writer: Sean Byrne
Director: Sean Byrne

The Loved Ones is an Australian movie which I have trouble believing is written and directed by the same person (Sean Byrne).

The story revolves around teenager Brent Xavier Samuel. Brent is full of anger and guilt since the death of his father, resulting in him being a loner who cut himself. When Lola Robin McLeavy asks him to go to the school dance with her he turns her down on the grounds that he already has a girlfriend who is his date for the night.

But Lola doesn’t exactly take rejection well. She arranges for her father John Brumpton to abduct Brent and take him to the family home where they play out a sick parody of the Prom while torturing him.

When I started watching this film I was expecting a fairly tacky teen slasher. However the first twenty minutes were anything but. Instead we had some excellent characterisation supported by great acting by the whole ensemble and some really good use of music to support the atmosphere.

So I was thinking this wasn’t going to be the usual dull torture porn. But then the abduction took place and everything changed. All sense of subtlety vanished in the search for unpleasantness and the grandest of Guignols.

Arguably this was intentional to produce contrast; if so it went too far. The whole scene quickly gets completely over the top and unbelievable, both in terms of the characters and the story. For me it went way over the line between unpleasant and unintentionally funny.

Yet despite the ridiculous story, the quality of the first twenty minutes is still there. The direction is good with most of the gore taking place off-screen, making the violence more intense not less. The intercutting of Brent’s ordeal with the light hearted story of the real Prom also works really well. And the acting remains great, especially Brumpton whose restrained, almost timid insanity contrasts well with McLeavy’s rather more expressive variety.

So on the one hand this is a classy movie full of quality. But the central story is crass and ridiculous. Which is what makes it so hard to believe that it was written and directed by the same person.

I can only conclude that director Sean Byrne has an evil twin who wrote the story.