Sunday, June 3, 2012
The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2012) -- C+
for its purportedly gonzo premise and wicked sense of humor, glimpses of which can be gleaned from the film's trailer. Ultimately, the film is less gonzo than bozo, writer/director Sean Byrne's debut feature an amalgamation of horror films pased lacking any perceptible contribution to the genre other than the film's wacko killer (see poster, to the left). The film is rather disappointingly high concept too: High School stud Brent (Xavier Samuel) chooses hottie Holly (Victoria Thaine) over lonely Lola (Robin McLeavy) for the prom; this propels the latter into a plan to capture, torture, and torment Brent - we soon learn she has some experience in such matters. If one were to describe the film much further, it would be quite difficult, since Byrne only merges ideas (the trailer's claim that the film is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Sixteen Candles is true, but that shouldn't be a compliment) rather than genuinely using the premise as a battleground for thematic excavation. Superficially glossing over (and cynically undercutting) obsession, sex, and meaningful, youthful expression, Byrne is a geek - he likes horror for the zombies rather than what the zombies stand for. He's the type of guy that would ask a question like "Do you prefer the walking or running zombies?" Of course, this is pure speculation, but it's difficult to reach other conclusions based on the film's insistence upon scenario over significance. All the hammers to the feet, nail-gun's to the head, daddy-daughter incest gags, deformed mutants in the basement, and glib "prom night" jokes do nothing for thematic inquiry. The Loved Ones can't hold a power-drill to last year's The Woman, Lucky McKee's thorough, terrifying evocation of the misogyny that necessarily comes from patriarchy and capitalism. Unfortunately for The Loved Ones, Byrne doesn't appear to take his own film (and the genre) seriously enough - a oddly smug quality given the high levels of self-awareness. He does manage some interesting sonic play, ambient sounds and screeching slo-mo as means of cerebral encapsulation - but again, such work has been done better in previous films (especially French Extremism from the past decade). Ultimately, Byrne and his film are fraudulent, since true terror comes either in dialogic revelation or formal alteration. The Loved Ones doesn't have very much of either. Here's a test: early in the film, Lola asks Brent to piss into a freshly-finished glass of milk. Refusing, she says: "You've got 10 seconds to go or Daddy's gonna nail your dick to the chair." If such a moment is "what horror is about" for you, then you can go ahead - enjoy. If not, best to (re)watch The Woman.