Up until Greg McLean’s unnerving ”Wolf Creek” in 2005, the Australian horror genre had been wedged between two cars, a couple of heavy speakers and a mound of trash at the ‘Dead End Drive In’. But with ”Creek”, “The Undead”, “Dying Breed”, “Daybreakers” and now ”The Loved Ones”, it’d seem the downunder frightflick is back from Trenchard-Smith obscurity (either that or we’ve all unconsciously been sent back to 1985 in a mad scientist’s nuclear-run time machine.)
Welcome it is too. Like a supermarket attendant that only knows how to mop the floor, albeit excellently – in the Aussie film industry’s case, we do a terrific drama – it’s always good to try other things, take a risk, show folks you’re capable of working with more than soap, water… and Bill Hunter.
“The Lovely Ones” has assumingly been made with the international market in mind- and nothing wrong with that, in today’s cutthroat world of film-enomics it’s always best to douse your flick in as much demographic MetoKote as possible. There’s a reason why Aussie flicks like “Crocodile Dundee”, “Mad Max”, and “Animal Kingdom” have been successful not only locally but overseas and that’s because, though never forgetting or airbrushing over their roots, they tell universal stories with characters that,if you’ll excuse the accents, could easily live up your street — down there in Denver.
“The Loved Ones”, though set in country Australia, is as Hollywood as a film bankrolled on purple ten’s can get. In fact, have the cast of “Gossip Girl” dub over the lead actors accents and one could easily be fooled into thinking director bloody genre piece hails from Kansas or New Mexico.But it is an Australian film and for that we can be proud – particularly as it’s a good one.
“Loved Ones” is, unashamedly so, an old hat yarn about a trodden-on and slightly screwloose young woman (MvLeavy) who with the help of her equally unstable father (John Brumpton) kidnaps the boy rejected her offer to accompany her to the dance. Once they’ve got the poor lad back to the kitchen, pop and sibling pull out all the stops when it comes to torture.
Those who accompanied their friend ‘Mr Cushion’ to screenings of “Texas Chainsaw”, “Hard Candy” or “Hostel” might want to skip this one – it’s a very grisly, up-comes-the-chicken affair.
But more than that, its a wicked film that’s not about to stop for the hyperventilating audience member to catch their breath. There’s not a light moment in the movie – it’s 80 minutes of very tense, very disturbing but very fun action. Sure the screenplay could’ve done with a few more pages spent on fleshing out the characters (the girlfriend we never quite learn anything about nor, for that matter, do we know much about our hero — much easier to root for someone when you’ve been well acquainted) but any holes there have been plugged with sexy and stylish direction, striking cinematography and great tunes.
Up and comer Xavier Samuel (”Eclipse”) makes for a believable victim cum hero, but it’s McLeavy and Brumpton, as the sadistic daughter and daddy duo of destruction, that really steal the show. With ‘Princess’ and ‘Daddy’ they’ve created two of the most frightening and also most original horror villains in recent years. Step aside Freddy, Jason, Michael… er, The Love Guru… there’s a couple of new nightmare-evokers in town!