The Loved Ones (2009)

Rating: C+

Dir: Sean Byrne
Star: Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Xavier Samuel, Victoria Thaine

High-school student Lola (McLeavy) has her eyes on Brent (Samuel), and asks him to the end of year dance. He turns her down, already having a steady girlfriend (Thaine), but Lola isn’t exactly the sort of girl who takes “No” for answer. With the help of her father (Brumpton), Brent is kidnapped and taken back to Lola’s house for a very special, personal party. It slowly becomes clear that Brent is not the first young man to whom Lola has taken a shine, and that both her and Daddy have some very, very serious issues. For instance, Brent’s first attempt to escape ends with him up a tree, from where he is brought down by the pair hurling rocks at them.

So to make sure he doesn’t try again, his foot is impaled with a knife through it, and into the floor. Things pretty much go downhill for him from there, and the film largely lives up to its description, by a festival programmer, as Pretty in Pink meets Misery – right down to the pink dress worn by Lola. The film certainly makes a mean trailer, but that stays intensely focused on the “torturn prom”, which is its strongest element, providing a glimpse into a pair of deeply-twisted psyches that feed off each other in a morbidly-destructive manner. The movie itself expands outside this, weakening its impact considerably by covering the search for Brent by his mother and girlfriend, and the ‘genuine’ prom-date being experienced by two of Lola’s schoolmates, an angle that has only a tenuous connection to the rest of proceedings.

It’s a shame: the performances, especially from McLeavy, deserve better, and for its weaknesses elsewhere (we snorted derisively when a cop saw a blood-drenched floor through Lola’s windows, then failed completely to call for back-up before going in), the script nicely expands the horror as the audience gradually discovers what’s going on – and has previously gone on. To be honest, if I’d come in expecting less, I’d have been satisfied, but after comments such as “needs to be seen by every horror fan out there who is crying out for a well made, original and effective horror film” (admittedly, from Dread Central, the Harry Knowles of over-hyped horror), disappointment was inevitable.