Friday, August 9, 2013

REVIEW: The Loved Ones (2009)

This is the kind of movie that turns critics into alcoholics. I really try not to bash filmmakers too hard – I mean, except for a select few exceptions, most of them put some real work into writing, directing or producing these films, not to mention the hard work actors put in. So I joke around a lot. But I’m not even kidding when I say I legitimately think the writer and director of this film need help. Like legitimate psychological help, because if not they’ll probably kill people someday.

Director: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy

Why do I say that? Well, read on and you'll see. You may also need some bleach for your eyes and brain to wash out the images you're about to witness. Folks, this is The Loved Ones…be afraid. Very afraid.

We start off with our main character Brent driving with his dad along some barren country road. The dad talks about how heavy metal slit-your-wrists crap is bad for you and how there’s nothing wrong with a real melody…yeah, because lord knows there’s NO melody in heavy metal music! It’s just banging pots and pans! Ugh, buncha morons…are we still having conversations like this in 2013? Fortunately a bloody shirtless guy is standing in the middle of the road, and you know THOSE are always easy to miss, right?

Officer, he just came outta nowhere!

It doesn’t even look like he walked onto the road, it looks like he was standing there the whole time! Oh, but I guess the riveting conversation just distracted them from the horribly bloody, wounded man in the middle of the street! They swerve off the road, hit a tree and die. Wow, shortest movie ever. I can’t even believe this got green-lighted! I mean, it was only a few minutes long. What a strange avant-garde commentary on the music industry…

Oh, fine, that's an old joke anyway. The movie actually skips forward six months past that incident, probably because they didn't have enough money to pay a hospital to let them film the scenes directly following. Seriously, six months later? Yeah, that works really well when we don’t know the character and had no time to get invested in him at all. Why even bother with a prologue like that if you’re only going to make it two minutes long? Just start from the damn actual beginning of your shitty movie! Why waste our time? Do you think showing us enough dumb scenes will just numb our brains for when the real stupidity starts?

Apparently Brent’s dad got killed in that crash and he has survived to make out with his girlfriend in broad daylight in the car in front of a school:

Because that wouldn’t get you in trouble, expelled and probably arrested, right? Especially since these people are clearly in their mid-20s.

I guess the story here is that this girl named Lola asks him to the school prom and he says no because, well, he already has a girlfriend as seen above, and plus her eyes are really creepy looking.

When his girlfriend is dropping him off at his house, she asks who asked him to the prom – truly one of the great romantic conversation starters. If I could have a nickel for all the times I've seen married couples who got hitched after one of them asked the other one "who was the other girl who asked you to prom?"...well, I still wouldn't have enough money to wipe this movie from my brain.

Brent then goes home and partakes in his second favorite thing next to making out in cars, climbing rocks with a dazed expression on his face:

Maybe he'll fall down and get his leg trapped under a rock for 127 hours. Then they can make a movie about that.

Apparently this is supposed to represent his depression about his dad dying, or something. It works about as well as going to a funeral in a clown suit, really, especially since we don't know anything about him. I know what you're thinking: maybe there will be more character development later. Well, you'd be wrong about that.

He gets kidnapped, and his mother realizes he's missing once his dog returns with stab wounds on his body. When she calls her cop friend, she tells him the dog has been stabbed, and he replies by asking: "What do you mean the dog was stabbed?" Uh, buddy, not sure there are that many options for the incredibly subtle and mystical implications of "my dog was stabbed." Maybe you should turn in your cop badge right now.

Also, fuck this movie for killing a dog. I don't care if it's fake. You deserve to go to hell for that even if you imply it.

I guess I forgot to mention the side-story about one of Brent’s friends going out with a rejected Jennifer’s Body cast member. He acts like a dork and she’s cold and distant for no reason…must be that damn heavy metal music again, which is apparently the root of all evil in Loved Ones land.

But that’s not the reason you’re here. No, you’re here for the ridiculously over the top and bizarre torture scenes that make up most of the rest of the film. Lola and her weirdo dad apparently kidnap Brent and take him home to tie him up and have their own prom. All because he said no to her at the prom. So you see kids, if someone asks you to the prom and you say no, there’s at least a 50% chance they will kidnap and torture you for it. At least that seems to be how it works in Australia where this movie takes place…

I really have to call this movie out for something else, too – not just the torture scenes being horribly ridiculous and stupid, though we’ll get to that soon enough. But the fact that we have this girl, who is clearly demented, and her father, who willingly helps and complies for no reason I can see. Is the only given reason for their insanity supposed to be “they’re just cuckoo crazy”? Just writing characters as insane without any real depth or emotion doesn’t work, movie. Not when the film focuses so heavily on listening to them all the time, and believe me, these two characters NEVER SHUT UP throughout this goddamn movie.

You have to have logic behind it. Her father helps her kidnap and torture young men. Why? Why would he do that? What’s the story there? We need at least a glimpse of some reason so our imaginations can get to work. We also need a more believable script that treats these two like characters, rather than just punch-lines for the world’s sickest take on the Aristocrats joke.

But hey, who needs character development and plot when you have wacky pedophilic incest scenes of the father staring lustfully at her while she undresses!

At this point I remember thinking the movie was treading a very fine line. Which it almost crosses, with the implication that the father and daughter are romantically involved...well, that WOULD explain the thought process behind this movie's conception, anyway.

Truly this movie brings the class. It’s not that I don’t “get this” – it’s trying on purpose to be as tasteless as possible. But that just means it’s the lowest level of scum imaginable.

Sigh, so they tie Brent up and inject him with a syringe that makes it so his vocal cords don’t work anymore, or something. Not sure what it’s supposed to be since they don’t explain it, but it pretty much negates the only thing that could have saved this movie: Brent talking to his kidnappers. If you want to do a really hardcore, brutal movie, you need to have some conflict beyond “he didn’t go to the prom with me.” If Brent can’t talk and reason with these two nutballs, where’s the incentive to keep watching? That could have created either drama or comedy, both of which the movie is sorely lacking. All the movie is from this point on – not even exaggerating here – is ludicrous torture scenes.

Part of me just thinks they couldn't think of good dialogue for him, so they just came up with this to make it a non-issue.

Since he can’t say anything, these scenes are just boring. Before you go and say “well, you can’t expect Shakespeare out of a horror movie”…well, shut up; no one is expecting Shakespeare. No one ever was. But if I’m going to sit through your ridiculous torture scenes, you better at least try to make it dramatic or funny in some way. At least have some kind of interesting hook to make us care! This movie has none of that! It’s not scary or dramatic because all it is is just torture crap – it’s not funny because there are no jokes. Having the two villains dance around in front of him while he’s tied up shouting ‘WE CAN’T HEAR YOU! WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!’ doesn’t count as funny. It just makes them look like imbeciles.

They do that twice, by the way. Twice. That's how bereft of ideas this fucking thing really is.

And yeah, on that note, what would have happened if Brent had said yes to taking Lola to the prom? Is this just her default when people say no – torture and humiliate them while they’re tied to a chair? If he said yes, would she have just acted like a normal girl?

But those questions aren’t important. We have a scene of Lola forcing him to pee into a cup, with the threat of her father nailing his dick to the chair if he doesn’t. Why? Well…why not? He escapes after that and tries to run, but instead just gets chased up a tree and they throw rocks at him until he falls down. Then they tie him up exactly the way he was before. So what was the point of this whole sequence? To show that throwing rocks at someone is a good way to knock them out? Good instruction manual, movie. How about I try it at the next board meeting of whatever executive studio thought it was okay to push this movie on the world?

We get some more stupid torture scenes, like showing him a picture book full of other kids who they did this to. So they’ve done this before. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this shit – are you FUCKING kidding me? So what do these people do when they’re not kidnapping and torturing high school boys for not going to the dance with Lola? Do they just eat breakfast and act like normal people? “Hey, dad, pass the cereal.” “Oh, honey, this one still has blood on it from when you disemboweled that kid last week!” “Oh, I’ll just have oatmeal then.” Christ.

Not to mention the whole tone is just off…keep in mind, these people nailed Brent’s feet to the floor. In the following scene, they take off his shirt and carve a heart on his chest with a fucking dinner fork. I mean really, do scenes like this fit in?

It's like the movie is stuck halfway between comedy and gore, not knowing how to channel either one properly to get laughs. It's also really painful like stubbing your toe.

Yeah. Pretty disconnected, isn’t it? You get blood and suffering and then it’s followed by a goofy scene where the dad “crowns” Lola prom queen, and then makes Brent blow a little party noisemaker like they’re five years old. Not to mention a dance sequence where the dad stands above them on a chair sprinkling glitter on them. It's incredibly tonally can't play up the gory, sadistic aspects AND the really silly glittery prom night aspects and have it work. Well, maybe you could - in an entirely different, much, MUCH better movie than this...

But hey, if those scenes aren’t riveting enough for you, we also get scenes of the best friend and that wannabe-gothic chick in the car doing mostly nothing. They make out a little, then go inside and she grabs his crotch on the dance floor. Could be worse, at least they’re not playing disco. And if you thought these scenes were too important to the overall plot, then we get the two having sex and then the principal catches them and makes them go home.

Can you even tell which one of these two is the woman in this picture?

I’m not even kidding here: this is the end of their storyline. What did we need that for? To break up the torture scenes? Granted, it’s not the worst idea in the world, but…c’mon movie, at least try and have a point.

Anyway, back in magical insane torture fuck-land, they decide to drill a hole in Brent’s head for no reason. Oh, wait, I take it back: the reason is that the director is a criminally insane pervert.

A face that only a mother could love...except literally, since her mother is a braindead catatonic. See the next picture!

There’s also some crap about a trap door in the floor with some kind of monsters inside, but we don’t see them yet. If it was a Lovecraftian entity, maybe, just maybe this movie would have gotten half a point on my rating scale. But, sigh, that is a disappointment all its own.

We never actually get a reason for the drilling a hole in the head thing…there’s this other, very minor, plot point with this old lady who they bring to the table who also has a hole in her head. She’s pretty much catatonic and serves as the ‘Grandpa from Texas Chainsaw’ rip off of the movie. Honestly, it’s even more pointless than the scenes with the best friend and the gothic chick. It goes absolutely nowhere, and mostly just seems to be a ‘look how gross we can be!’ thing. If you’ve been keeping track, with this movie that is just overkill.

Yeah so this is Lola's mom or something...why is that in the movie; to gross the audience out? Go fuck yourself Loved Ones.

Sigh, I’m tired of this review. Let’s try and finish it up…so Brent escapes, kills the dad and tries to kill Lola too. I guess listening to metal really does make you a killer. Whodathunkit?

We get a really cliché scene where Lola gets all mad that her dad died – I really hate movies like this that have sadistic, morally reprehensible kidnappers, torturers and killers who somehow get SO MAD when their plan goes wrong and one of their captives – shock and awe – retaliates and fights back. It’s stupid as hell writing. If you’re gonna go and do horrible stuff to people, you’d BETTER be prepared for bad stuff to happen right back to you. In a better movie, you could potentially elicit sympathy from the villains. But there’s really only one movie I know that has ever done it completely:

Now there’s a better movie. Way better, even.

Then Lola hits his hand with a hammer and knocks Brent down to the pit in the floor. It’s full of anorexic crazed zombies that remind me of Martyrs, which is really only half a step up from this in terms of artfulness or meaning – it’s another piece of shit, basically; just not as rancid. Somehow, even with a goddamn hole in his skull and knife-wounds in both feet, plus the numerous other injuries, he’s still able to beat them all and pretty much seems completely fine. Maybe he’s magical, I dunno. Makes about as much sense as anything else.

Apparently these things are supposed to be the previous victims of Lola and her dad. I don't even get it; why go through the trouble? Is guys saying no to your daughter for prom really such a big deal that you need to build a basement, get a soundproof trap door and feed them rats all the time? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? CAPITAL LETTERS RAGE ARRRRGGGGHHHHH

Then it’s cliché time yet again as a cop comes to the house and does the whole ‘hey, I found the captive! Whoops, the killer came up behind me and I was too stupid to be on the alert! Uh oh, I’m dead!’ routine. It’s been done in a thousand other movies, and anyone who uses it in such an unoriginal manner should be banned from writing for any other movie. Or maybe just called out for being an idiot. I dunno, either one.

It's not even like this scene was designed to get people going 'LOOK OUT!' in the theater. It's two seconds long...they wouldn't even get past the first syllable before she axes him.

Meanwhile Brent’s girlfriend figures out it was Lola who kidnapped him, because she remembers him saying it was Lola who asked him to the dance earlier…wow, kinda a big leap in logic there, huh? It could have been any girl that asked him; why does THAT mean she’s the kidnapper? Granted, the movie’s warped view of reality proves her right, but still. What if she’d gone and accused some poor sad girl who’s spent the night inside watching Dear John?

We then get the dumbest cat fight in the world as Brent’s girlfriend fights Lola. Because seriously, why didn’t she call the police? Why wouldn’t she at least get backup? Going out alone to confront a possible kidnapper is the DUMBEST thing she could have done!

Disclaimer: actually a deleted scene from the next Bridesmaids movie.

Brent climbs up a pile of bones and escapes very easily actually – I’m not sure why being stuck in the hole was a problem at all for him. He takes the police car and drives away, avoiding his girlfriend only to swerve and hit Lola instead. Just like in the beginning when he swerved to avoid the bloody guy in the road and hit the tree, remember? GET IT? So clever! So witty! If people would just stop running around in the street, this kid could finally learn how to be a good driver. Alas.

So yeah, the movie adds up to an Australian driving PSA. Which is still more meaning than you'd get from any of the torture scenes.

So they go home, hug Brent’s mom and…yeah, that’s it, movie over. I'd call it underwhelming, but frankly I think the movie didn't end soon enough. It should have ended back when the car crashed the first time, three minutes in. We get some credits, complete with the director’s name in nauseatingly pink and purple colors with glitter all around – something you want to tell us there, Sean Byrne?

This is the worst movie with a theme about driving since Taken 2. This has got to be one of the worst out there; I mean I really don’t see how much else even compares. Everything about this is grating and obnoxious, from the Z-grade over-acting to the absolutely ridiculous plot. And I mean ridiculous, because this shit is seriously just cocaine-addled. I never felt anything for the characters besides annoyance – and the occasional slack-jawed disbelief that some of the things in this film actually made it past anyone with taste. Maybe the filmmakers just threw rocks at them until they left.

The Loved Ones is about nothing; there is no meaning to it. As a horror movie it's a joke, and like The Road and The Traveler it substitutes scares and tension for pointless gore, which always sucks unless it's either really funny or has a lot of tension behind it - this has neither. As a comedy it's perhaps even worse, as none of the "jokes" are funny...they had no good material and so they resorted to over the top facial expressions and a pop song that is "ironic" in the context of the film...frankly it just made me wish I was deaf.

I hate this movie. I bet this will get a lot of people coming out of the woodwork proclaiming this as some kind of “black comedy genius,” but those people probably don’t know anything about good movies. I think the director and the writer of this flick need serious help for whatever psychotic issues they have, and I wouldn’t be quick to correct you if you said anyone who likes this movie also needs psychological help. If you have a recommendation for a good counselor for these misguided, sick souls, post it in the comments. It will be much obliged by their families and friends.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go start a support group for loved ones affected by The Loved Ones…

All images in the review are copyright of their original owners, I do not own any of them.