I'll come out and say it straight up: The Loved Ones is torture porn, so much so that it had to be heavily edited in order to get a less restrictive rating. What you will find here that you won't find in other films of the genre, is an actual plot (which is admittedly quite thin), character development, fine performances, tension, scares, and gory bits that don't overshadow the rest of the film.
After metal-head Brent (Xavier Samuel from Twilight: Eclipse) crashes into a tree killing his dad, he turns into a detached, drug fuelled teen. The only thing giving him a sense of happiness and comfort is his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine), who is also his date for the upcoming prom. But when Brent rejects an offer from 'sweet and innocent' Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy), things take a turn for the worst, when Brent is abducted and taken back to Lola's house, where a night of sadistic, blood-drenched 'fun' begins.
What may surprise you about The Loved Ones, is the excellent performances by the cast. Xavier Samuel didn't really get to prove himself in Eclipse (what with all the moping and sparkling vampires?), but here he really shows that he is an extremely talented actor, and will have a long and large future ahead of him. The support is also excellent, particularly John Brumpton as the weirded out 'Daddy'. But the real star of the show is McLeavy, who puts in an astonishing performance as Lola, surely to become one of the most demented horror characters. Both creepy and funny, McLeavy lifts an already fantastic film to an absolutely brilliant one.
Someone else who is astonishing is Sean Byrne, who, believe it or not, makes his debut with this film. Getting the perfect balance between bloodshed and emotion, and horror and comedy is no easy feat, but Byrne achieves this as effortlessly as any director who's been working for 20 years. There is a sense of emotional depth behind all the bloodshed, which is quite poignant, and gives the film a real backing that other torture porn flicks have lacked. And the use of Kasey Chambers' 'Not Pretty Enough' is genius.
Like I said, striking a balance between two different things can be difficult, and it must be said that the film slightly misses a beat when we move out of Lola's 'lair', but we can't be too picky, can we. This was the best horror film I saw last year, and, other than Animal Kingdom, the best Aussie film of last year, definitely the most underrated. Funny and in turn scary, The Loved Ones is destined to become a cult classic.
4.5 out of 5