For each single individual, the iconic staple of teenaged life, prom, means something unique and separated depending on the memories, or an infinite variety of other factors related to the subject. Because of the decades worth (or at least the 80's and beyond) of romantic comedies related to the special night, grand expectations caused by the cinematic romanticism can easily be created, and be absolutely demolished even faster. In the age in which John Hughes movies such as Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink dominate our perception of how prom works, the assumption of it being a night of sentimentality and emotion largely prevents even excessive enjoyment to be a small disappointment. When media tells you that the experience will be unadulterated perfection for your entire life, and the result is anything less, wouldn't you be disheartened, even minutely, as well? If this is any cold comfort to the disillusioned and disgruntled prom goers reading this review, no matter the disappointment which may ensue, it will certainly go far more successfully than the characters of the Tasmanian exploitation flick, The Loved Ones.
Manically violent, excessively gory, maniacally deranged, and excessively ludicrous, Sean Bryne's directorial debut can only be described as a long lost John Hughes teen comedy replete with Aussie accents crossed with a late franchise Saw sequel scripted by a man loaded on a reckless and extremely dangerous stash of pixie sticks and cocaine while writing. The premise is fairly simple, but grows to near unmeasurable levels of insanity: After school loner Brent (Xavier Samuel) rejects the needy nerd Lola's (Robin McLeavy) invitation to prom, she and her "daddy" (John Brumpton) abduct Brent, and subject him to their own personal version of the dance. Some examples of the madness that ensues includes, but is not limited to: Zombified savages, forced urination, screwdriver induced lobotomies, disturbing themes involving incest, graphic mutilation, explicit torture, psycho knife killers, and the slaughter of an innocent adorable puppy. This is a movie that's willing to pull out every possible gruesome special effect, plot point, or camera trick in an effort to scare its audience, and does so with a gleeful smile on its face. If the film deserves one huge credit, it's that though the outcome is predictable, the journey never is.
Though the existence of the manic, constant creative brutality is the main reason as to why the film is entertaining rather than cringe inducing due to unrelenting simplistic violence, it's also the problem as well. Despite running at an already lean 84 minutes, with little other than gore giving the film momentum, even with the rapid inclusion of new hypothetically terrifying elements it feels as if it would've worked better had Bryne directed the material as a darkly comedic short than feature length horror. As much as he tries with his repulsive imagination, no amount of inclusions without real plot development can sustain any film for 84 minutes. However, what does help carry the film through to the 84 minute finish line is a subplot involving Brent's friend Jamie (Richard Wilson). Having almost no connection to the disturbing exploitation flick surrounding it, the subplot simply involves Jamie and his date (Jessica McNamee) enjoying a slightly mediocre, average prom night. The gruesome insanity of Brent's night of torture contrasted with a buddy experiencing realistic mediocrity gives a nice darkly comedic edge to an over-the-top disgusting film.
While it certainly won't win any awards, unless someone creates an achievement for "Best Puppy Stab" or "Best Pouring of Boiling Water Into A Fully Lobotomized Skull," The Loved Ones provides decent deranged enjoyment to those seeking the most absolute, no questions asked, lowest common denominator popcorn entertainment. This is a film that should be preferably seen at midnight, with a group of people who just don't really care what they're watching. It's faint praise, but praise nonetheless.
Level of Terror: Unsettling