Although prom-themed horror movies are not exactly revolutionary thanks to the cult status of “Prom Night” (1980) and “Carrie” (1976), Sean Bryne’s 2009 film manages to make an updated contribution to this specific catalogue while possibly surpassing its predecessors. Not only does it deliver a satirical look at the widely-practiced ritual that this reviewer finds oh-so-refreshing, but as a horror film in general it definitely fails to disappoint. So slip on those dancing shoes and spike that punch; you’re about to be introduced to “The Loved Ones.”
What Lola Wants, Lola Gets
Our story begins with a freak car-accident on an open Australian highway, allowing a glimpse of a pivotal moment in the life of the teenaged driver Brent (Xavier Samuel), whose father does not survive the incident. Flash-forward to six months later, and we see that time has carried the grief-stricken young man to the eve of his high school’s prom. At the behest of his best friend, Jamie (Richard Wilson), and his girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine), Brent has decided take a night off from his routine cannabis-smoking and self-mutilation to put on a brave face and participate in the festivities. But before he can say “cummerbund,” our luckless delinquent is incapacitated, tossed into the flatbed of a truck and whisked away. He awakens in an unfamiliar kitchen to find that the prom night he is about to endure is not exactly the one he had in mind. Unfortunately for him, his quiet and rather awkward classmate Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) is also deeply troubled; she’s a tad insecure, and not all that great at taking “no” for an answer. Also, there is that uncomfortably close relationship she has with her father (John Brumpton)….you get the picture. Needless to say this chick is one bit short of a power-drill, and for Brent this means he’s in for an evening of torture, terror, and, fried chicken.
Growing Up is Hard to Do
Since teen-targeted media nearly suffocates its demographic with promises that their promenade is going to be the Best. Night. Ever., it is fairly wondrous to watch a film which literally hammers in the point that no matter how expensive your outfit, how sexy your makeup, or how many boys your daddy kidnaps and drags home and ties to a chair, no rotating disco-ball is ever going to remedy all of life’s wrongs. This film has a riveting pace, loads of shocking surprises and plenty of heart-wrenching gore, but its best attribute is the way it treats its characters. While the standard slasher flick often kills off both minor and major figures with inhumane cruelty, “The Loved Ones” loves each person who appears on screen. Everyone here is connected and fully rounded; much like the inner-workings of a high school community, everyone has their private cross to bear despite all appearances. Even the twisted Lola garners some sympathy once you overlook her sadistic ego-centrism; her father’s inability to let her experience the perfectly normal and formative pain of rejection is indeed the root cause for this satin-clad monster’s frustration with the world.
And This Year’s Crown Goes to….
Most successful horror films inject a perfectly timed sense of humour and absurdity in order to give viewers a chance to catch their breath, and this film executes its own jokes with glorious gusto. The movie is also intelligent enough not to fully rely on gruesome violence to make its audience squirm, but rather draws upon the sheer darkness of its subject matter as it touches upon themes of grief, alienation, and the overall horror of having to grow up in an imperfect world. I chose to write about this Aussie gem because I truly believe it sets the bar for the contemporary horror genre, proving it’s capability to churn out just as good and meaningful a storyline as any other type of movie. For those of you brave enough, and even those of you who aren’t, I highly recommend that you take a chance and let “The Loved Ones” into your heart.
My Rating: 9.5/10