Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: The Loved Ones

Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 84 minutes

I've had quite the struggle watching this. It seems like my apartment's wireless and I will be battling each other for a couple more weeks. Anyway, I've been wanting to watch this for a while. I think a YouTuber I'm subscribed to recommended this movie and I streamed this a couple weekends ago.

The story opens with Brent Mitchell and his father taking a drive in town. They laugh and bond with each other, until they see a man walking in the middle of the road. Brent quickly swerves away and crashes the car into a tree, ultimately killing his father. Six months later, Brent's school is having an end of the year dance. Brent's jovial, pothead friend, Jamie, is excited after obtaining a date with Mia. Shortly after, Brent gets asked to the dance by a seemingly shy or awkward girl named Lola Stone. Brent declines and says he's going with his girlfriend Holly. After sharing a moment with Holly, we see Brent's strained relationship with his mother and how he's been coping with his father's death with cutting and marijuana. Brent goes off alone with his dog and has some alone time, then suddenly his dog gets stabbed and Brent is subdued by a stranger. Brent wakes up to find himself tied to a chair and sees a familiar face...Lola.

From watching a certain trailer, you have no clear story of Brent. You might even believe that Lola is our main character and our victim deserves to be tortured. It's interesting that the story has been flipped and makes Lola the villain. I suppose I will tie in some commentary I've read from others with my own thoughts.

The most common movies I see this movie compared to are Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Misery, Pretty in Pink, and Wolf Creek. I've only seen half of those movies. I can guess they are spot on by mixing elements from Pretty in Pink and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There is a strange and uncomfortable family bond present and ties in the common situation of wanting to go to the prom with someone you like. As for the Wolf Creek comparison, which I totally forgot I even saw, is a bit bogus as well as lumping it with Eli Roth's Hostel. I don't even know how or why I saw Wolf Creek. It might feed into the supposed "torture porn" trend people keep talking about, but I see it differently. The Loved Ones falls more in the category of the earlier Saw movies. It contains a main character you feel sympathy for and you feel his pain while he is captured in the Stone household. As for movies like Wolf Creek and Hostel, we have very unlikable characters that carry no value or substance from the audience to feel anything but joy when the character is killed off. The torture in this movie and the way it is shot and executed makes every moment intense, disturbing, and sometimes unbearable. Yes, I admit I looked away at least three times during the movie and that's pretty rare.

One criticism I strongly disagreed with is that the movie is misogynistic. I didn't read the whole article as it seemed very repetitive and felt like they saw a different movie than I did. The author mentions that the characters, especially our two main characters, as lacking development, relatability, emotion, and stability. They mention that there is no explanation for Lola's mindset and Brent doesn't show the effects of his father's death enough. Lastly, it is stated that the female characters are portrayed as weak and that the movie shows that women go crazy over men. After cooling off and reevaluating my thoughts on the characters, here's what I think and let me remind you that I didn't finish the whole article, so I'm sure there's other problems I had with it.

Even though there's no spoken exposition about why the characters function the way they do, you can piece together ideas by visual cues. In Lola's case, you can guess her ideals of how she views herself and relationships with men by listening to the song that constantly plays throughout the movie and the images found in her bedroom as well as the magazine clippings in her scrapbook. Also taking note of how her father acts and looks at Lola helps piece together her character. As for Brent's supposed lack of emotion, I think he expressed his feelings toward his father's death enough without the director going overboard with his coping mechanisms of loud rock music, cutting, pot, and borderline suicidal tendencies. I was happy they didn't exaggerate that like most movies. Lastly, I don't believe there are any weak female characters. Brent's mother displayed concern and tried to reach out to her son. She comforted Holly as well while they figure out where he is. Holly is confident and secure with herself. She is smart and proactive with the search as well. Mia may be quiet and dependent on drugs, alcohol, sex, and Jamie's company, but she is also coping with her own loss. Lola is also her own person. She's not overly dependent on her father, he's more of a partner in crime and father figure trying to keep his little "princess" happy.

The situation may be extreme, but most of us can relate to rejection and the anger we gain from it, especially during our vulnerable years as teenagers and trying to be with that special someone. Even though there could be more character development, there is enough to get the gist of who they are and how they function.

This is more than just a torture movie and even if it is labelled guilty of contributing to the silly "torture porn" sub-genre, I believe this movie brings more to the table than satisfying our subconscious sadist. You'll feel sympathy for Brent as opposed to the hoards of annoying, unlikable horror characters we can't wait to see die off. This is no Wolf Creek. Saying that they're similar because they're from Australian directors is just like Psycho is like Friday the 13th because they're both American. This isn't for the weak at heart either. If you need a refreshing horror flick that'll make you cringe a little, then I recommend this movie.

Rating: 4/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

No comments: