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Featured DVD Review: The Loved Ones

September 9th, 2012

The Loved Ones - Buy from Amazon

The Loved Ones is torture porn and generally I hate torture porn. However, I had heard this film rises above the usual for the genre. Was the buzz correct? Or is the film a typical film in that genre?

The Show

The film starts with... "Lonesome Loser" by Littler River Band. That song's on heavy rotation on my MP3 playlist. The film starts with Brent Michaels driving with his dad. After a bit of father son talk, Brent has to swerve to avoid a bloody man walking shirtless on the street, but crashes into a tree and in the accident, his dad dies.

Flash forward six months later and Brent is graduating, but he still hasn't recovered from the accident. He's become a pot head, and worse, has turned to self-mutilation, keeping a razor on a necklace. This is partly because he blames himself for the accident, but also because his mother, Carla (Suzi Dougherty), has slipped into a depression and hasn't been able to help him much. He does have a girlfriend, Holly, whom is he taking to the prom. Another girl, Lola, asks him to the prom, but is too late and he turns her down. He is nice about it. Unfortunately, nice doesn't cut it with her and she goes a little stalkerish following him and Holly while they are out for a drive and a make-out session.

Later that day, Brent goes out of a walk with his dog, does a little free rock climbing, and makes it to the top, barely. Once at the top, he calls home, only to be jumped from behind and knocked out. Carla hears something before the line goes dead, and immediately looks for him. Meanwhile, when Holly comes to pick him up, he's still not home. And when the dog comes home and they see he'd been stabbed, they know something major is wrong.

So what happened? Brent was kidnapped by Daddy, Lola's loving father. When Brent wakes up, he's tied to a chair around a dinner table with Daddy, Lola, and "Bright Eyes" (Anne Scott-Pendlebury). But what happens next is where we run into spoiler territory.

The problem I have with torture porn is with the nature of movies in general. When you watch a movie, there is usually a character that you not only follow, but is supposed to be the embodiment of the viewer. In most films, this character is the hero, as films are escapist entertainment and people want to imagine they are the powerful character. Occasionally, you are supposed to associate most with a side character. (If someone in a movie asks, 'What the hell is going on?' a lot, that's probably who you are supposed to associate with, as you learn about the world with that character.) With torture porn, I think most people think they are the final survivor, but in reality, they associate more with the torturer. They are watching people be tortured for entertainment, which is sadistic, just like the bad guys. This is why I don't like torture porn in general. The Loved Ones gets away from that, because the main bad guy (girl), Lola, isn't sadistic as much as she is absolutely crazy. Clearly this is a family that is nuts and has been since she was a little girl. It's a lot harder to associate yourself with someone that disturbed. On the other hand, it is hard to identify with Brent, because he spends a lot of time tied to a chair and is a passive character. As I was watching the movie, I was hoping Holly would take a more proactive role in rescuing Brent, to give the film a protagonist to relate to.

So The Loved Ones isn't typical torture porn, but has more psychological horror elements to it, as well as ones that have a perverse humor to them. That is not to say there are no gory moments, as there are several. Also, the performance by Robin McLeavy is a major selling point the movie. On the other hand, the movie felt thin, even though it was less than 80 minutes from opening to closing credits. There was even a sub-plot with Jamie and Mia and as I was watching these scenes, I was left wondering when they would tie into the plot. It could have been sliced out without hurting the plot, but would have reduced the running time too much.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a three-part interview featurette with the cast and crew. The three parts are in total about 23 minutes, which isn't bad for a limited release, but not a huge selling point either.

The Verdict

Overall, The Loved Ones is a very good horror movie, but not as good as its Tomatometer Score would indicate. The DVD isn't loaded with extras, but there's enough that it is worth buying for fans of the genre.

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