The Loved Ones (AUS)
Take the Twihard phenomenon to its obsessive and murderous extreme and you’d arrive somewhere close to this gleefully nasty Aussie horror. Actually Lola, the pretty-in-pink psycho at its centre, would devour them before breakfast. Robin McLeavy is magnetic as that wannabe queen bee, and none too pleased when Brent (Xavier Samuel, soon to vamp it up in Twilight: Eclipse) refuses her prom-date invitation. He’s soon abducted by her loyal and subservient father (John Brumpton) and, under the skittering lights of a disco ball, sets about teaching him the error of his ways.
What could have been an exercise in torture-porn nihilism is redeemed by a wicked sense of humour and beautiful, stylized visual palette – somehow all the colourful prom-queen imagery makes the violence easier to take. First time writer/director Sean Byrne skilfully creates a distinct, twisted universe and builds an unbearable level of suspense while drawing on, among others, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Carrie.
Lola is one of the most demented of movie characters, fixated on her wish for the perfect night and drunk with hormonal glee over her barely contained sexuality (one that’s sometimes directed in rather unpleasant directions). She’s so mental you have pity for her – one of the reasons the movie is such a success. Despite the shocks and blood, there’s an odd identification one has with this bizarre world of heightened teenage emotion. It’s not for the squeamish, but unlike its recent Hollywood siblings, it’s a horror movie that actually delivers on expectations. [JB]