(Oh boy, my first requested review! At the request of NoFreeTickets, I watched the Australian horror flick The Loved Ones.)
I’m not a fan of the so-called “torture-porn” subgenre of horror movies, but it’s gotten great reviews in the past, so I figured it would be pretty good. And it is a good horror movie, it’s just not my usual cup of tea. The Loved Ones is so far the torture-porn movie I’ve enjoyed, but having only seen Saw and parts of the sequels and parts of the Hostel series, I don’t know if I’m the most qualified person to say that. But that being said, this is a solid horror movie, regardless of subgenre.
The story follows a teenager name Brent, who is kidnapped by a crazed schoolmate after he turns down her invitation to the prom. After that the movie is mostly just Brent being tortured by his captors, Lola and her equally twisted father. They were clearly going for a horror-comedy angle, though, because the story occasionally cuts back to Brent’s friend at the prom, and the prom scenes are played for laughs. The only major problem I had with the movie was that the prom scenes were not that funny and were clearly there for padding. There’s not much direction to the prom subplot, and it easily could have been eliminated. I realize the writers needed something to break up the monotony of the violence, but they could have at least written something funnier.
Surprisingly the horror scenes are actually suspenseful and intense. Most movies like this are just an onslaught of gore, relishing in showing as much bloodshed as possible, trying to gross out the audience instead of creeping them out. The Loved Ones shows a surprising amount of restraint, with a lot of the violence being left to the viewer’s imagination, which is a far more effective way of getting those desired winces out of your audience. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is unapologetically brutal, but it’s made all the more horrifying by what they don’t show, and that is something few horror movies seem to grasp these days.
As with any horror movie, there is a good bit of campiness to The Loved Ones, although because of the comedy suffix, it’s hard to tell sometimes what was meant to be funny and what was supposed to be serious. The villain, Lola, and her father are very over-the-top. There’s such a maniacal glee to them that it’s hard to take them seriously until they’re nailing you to the floor. (I’m still unsure if I’m supposed to laugh when they force-feed Brent fried chicken.) I love that the director was able to get a few laughs even during the most intense scenes. When Lola is attempting to drill a hole in her captive’s forehead, she keeps messing up the procedure, and the perfectly-timed breaks in tension are a great bit of dark humor.
Overall, this is a really good horror movie. It does a fantastic job of building suspense and making you extremely uncomfortable, and while the prom subplot is a bit out of place, it thankfully doesn’t kill the tension. It’s certainly not for everyone because of its torture-porn nature, but if you can look past that The Loved Ones is an interesting watch. I don’t even like torture based horror, and I thought this was well-done. If you like stuff like Saw, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re like me and are skeptical about, I’d say give it a try, because you may find a pleasantly creepy surprise.