Thursday, June 30, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: The Loved Ones

Our second Australian film of the list. I'm really enjoying seeing so many interpretations of horror, from so many time periods, countries, and cultures. Its wild, and my appreciation for the genre grows each day, which is shocking, as I already loved horror more then I can really relate in words. Its just always been my thing.

Today's film, The Loved Ones, trades out the surreal and the mysterious of Picnic at Hanging Rock for the white knuckled tension and unflinching brutality of France's Martyrs. It doesn't bring the insane plot or tense relationships of Martyrs though, which is a shame, it instead has qualities more familiar to more torture related ventures listed later in the schedule. While it may be missing out on those aspects, it doesn't detract from the intensity of the film nor the visceral shots it employs so well.

It is rather good.
The Loved Ones falls firmly in the oft maligned segment of horror that has been dubbed torture porn by the media. Movies that linger on painful and excruciating scenes rather then move the camera away, with organic and brutal sounds to pair. Common complaints are that these scenes are meant to excite and titillate the viewer, like some kind of porn. Its fascinating to note that the only people who ever say its supposed to entice in an erotic fashion, are the detractors who condemn the movies. The rest of the viewers don't seem to have that problem, seeing it as horrific and ghastly. When women are the victims a new crowd of critics arrives, but today's outing only sees male victims. So we'll save that discussion for another movie.

The secret desires of angry movie critics aside, that does give you an idea of what you are in for. Very in your face scenes of terrible things happening to good people. So don't pick this one up if that upsets you in anyway. That being said, the tension building used while these bad things happen is done well. I found myself incredibly tense at a few junctures in the movie, most notably during scenes involving a drill. The mechanical whine as it bored into bone, on a one way trajectory to a mans brain, was paced flawlessly. Just long enough to keep me tense but not so overly long that I got over it.

That damn drill!
Getting a bit ahead of myself here, lets blame that on the fact that its 4:30am again and that I just never learn. Anyway, the movie opens in a fashion that should be old hat to anyone that's read all of my reviews, a car crash. A son driving his father home, swerves to avoid a man who is covered in blood, the car strikes a tree so hard that the movie cuts to one year later. We meet back up with the son, our protagonist, who now cuts himself out of guilt for his father's death.

After some typical high school dialogue with his friend, he gently turns down a girl who invites him to a dance, and meets up with his girlfriend for car based sex. This is when we notice the girl he rejected is angrily watching through the window. Her father will then later ambush the boy as he smokes by a tree. Killing his dog and drugging our hero, the man spirits him off to his home, where a makeshift dance has bee arranged in the dingy confines of the kitchen. Then the torture begins.

"Did he say torture?"
We won't dwell on that much, as I have already said most of what needs saying. These moments are visceral and unflinching, and they play with timing in ways that will leave your body aching from the tension it builds. We have seen this all before, but they do it very well here. What I didn't mention were the fantastic jobs of looking totally bat-shit that the father and daughter pull off. The father dotes on his daughter with the same lazy ease that he hammers knives into the boys feet, his sleepy eyes flashing with a delighted menace only the insane can pull off. The daughter flies wildly through intense moods and gleefully dishes out pain with reckless abandon like a child at play, just with salt being flung into deep cuts.

They actually manage to pull some comedy out of the situations this way, such a completely absurd and disturbed relationship played with so much gusto gets a few uncomfortable chuckled out between horrible abuse. These pair well with the b-story of the movie, of our imprisoned hero's friend on his date with the girl he likes. In many ways I wanted more of it, his date is revealed to be the sister of the bloodied man who opened the movie for us, but as interesting as that is, we never get any closure out of it. They build it up, spend the time showing us this happening, and then just leave it unfinished. Makes you wonder why the scenes were included at all, if it was just for comic relief, then that's same dark comedy right their. Seeing a self abusive girl tormented over her brothers year long absence, drinking and being depressed with the comical sidekick, that's not really much fun when the movie ends without her getting any closure.

Crazy done crazy.
This isn't a French movie, so as we near the end we have a heroic escape by our protagonist, which of course includes his bloody vengeance as he wins his freedom. It doesn't all work out perfectly at first, once again giving us some great tension building moments and false starts.

All in all its a well made movie, but it drops its side story abruptly which is a great shame. The potential for building some of the other characters up and fleshing out the story was all right there, but nothing gets done with it. Its the difference between something that's well made, but nothing special, and something that really nails it. Its still a good movie so long as you can stomach it, but it won't surprise you with anything terribly new. Well worth checking out, but leaves you sad at the missed potential.

It must run in the family.
Tomorrow brings us Insidious, which I have been hearing about all year, and all I have heard has been heaps of praise. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited. I have managed to keep all aspects of the plot and story a mystery to myself, just knowing that people think its amazing and scary. Can't wait. For the rest of the movies on the schedule, and for previous reviews, check out The 150 Days of Halloween.