Nothing bothers me more in discussions of current horror movies than the desire to reduce seemingly every movie depicting any scene of "torture" as "torture porn." And that is what many have done with the slick Australian production The Loved Ones.
When Brent (oooh, that's MY name!) turns down Lola for the end of school dance (because he's taking his girlfriend, which seems like a good enough reason) he ends up kidnapped by her father and...well...yes, tortured by the daddy-daughter team. But, let's stop there for a second because if we're going to claim that acts of torture constitute torture porn than we need to lay the inspiration for the sub-genre at the feet of films like Misery and The Marathon Man. And honestly, Misery is a much more apt comparison for The Loved Ones than Saw or Hostel.
I was not a particularly big fan of Wolf Creek and hadn't yet gotten on the Aussie horror bandwagon but this is another beast altogether. Rather than living in a world of harsh brutality and dim colors, director Sean Byrne and cinematographer
Simon Chapman live in the brightly colored world of teenage comedies.
There is a neat, but somewhat unnecessary situational juxtaposition going on during the length of the film where we're not only following Brent through hell but we also follow his seemingly "loser-y" friend while he goes on a first date and seems to have everything go his way. It's funny at times and does add to the "80's teen comedy that lost it's fucking mind" atmosphere to have a completely horrorless subplot taking place. But it doesn't have a whole lot to it and really seems there more to pad the running time than to provide us with anything as viewers other than, perhaps, moments to catch our breath.
There is a wrinkle thrown in late in the movie that certainly changes the tone of things from a standard hostage/torture situation but seems to be well explained and is set up subtly and doesn't go too far in derailing the rest of what has and has not yet happened.
The Loved Ones is well contained, well written, well acted, well filmed and doesn't try to do too much which is astounding to me for a first feature from Byrne. Everything just feels right and fresh from start to finish. And when I say from start, I mean even the opening song is great:
This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite horror releases of 2009-2010.
Final Score: 4.5/5