The Loved Ones (2012)
(Originally posted here)
(Note: I'm listing this film as a 2012 release since that was the year it was released in my home country, the United States. In Australia, it was released in 2010.)
Hot. Damn. I've been hearing great things about this one since it swept through TIFF and all the other film festivals a few years ago. The trailer made me even more interested in seeing this. When I saw that it was available on demand, I knew what I was gonna be watching tonight. I've been worried that this was gonna be one of those films that didn't live up to the hype, that was gonna somehow disappoint me when I finally saw it.
Well, if you too have any such concerns, take them and drill some big holes in their rotten little heads, because they are wrong. This is, hands down, the best new horror film I've seen all year, and easily in my Top Five of all time.
First off, this film could not have worked without its chief villainess, Lola Stone. Lola is fucking terrifying. A teenage girl driven mad by love, or just plain psycho? Lola is both. Lola is one of the scariest horror movie villains I've seen in a long time, and she wouldn't have been as scary as a wet puppy if not for the performance by Robin McLeavy. The entire film rests on McLeavy's shoulders, and she not only carries it, she lifts it into the sky. She switches between "adorable" and "completely batshit insane" as though director Sean Byrne had installed a switch in her brain, and she pulls off both of them. McLeavy's performance is many things, but subtle ain't one of them; she is a force of nature in this film. I was so engrossed in her performance that I was surprised to find that she was actually 28 years old when this film was made, because she sure didn't look it. I expect great things in her future.
The directing is also top-notch. Slick, stylish and making great use of pop and rock music, particularly a little song by Kasey Chambers, a singer who I hadn't heard of before watching this film... and now probably can't listen to without getting rightly creeped out. Long stretches of the film go without dialogue, conveying more with a gesture than many films can with a monologue full of exposition. The violence is brutal without getting over-the-top. The non-McLeavy portions of the cast are great -- Xavier Samuel, who plays the hapless victim Brent, shines even though he can't speak for two-thirds of the film. The various side characters all logically connect to the main story somehow, never feeling superfluous. The incestuous overtones between Lola and her father add a whole extra layer of creepy onto the film.
And I'll stop gushing now. Go see this movie already.
Score: 5 out of 5
The best horror movie I've seen this year, and in a year that produced The Cabin in the Woods, that's saying something. If you have any doubts about how great this movie is... WE CAN'T HEAR YOU!!! WE CAN'T HEAR YOU!!! WE CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!