Can you smell the crisp October air? Then screw you, it’s in the mid-80s in Austin. Enjoy your sweater weather, I’ll just continue wearing shorts and flip-flops…in October. But no matter what weather you may be experiencing, it’s October the world over and that means it’s time for copious amounts of candy and scary movies. To celebrate this greatest of months, we here at Film School Rejects have decided to spotlight a different horror film every day all month long, in a feature we’ve cleverly titled 31 Days of Horror. These aren’t really reviews as such, think of it more as a list of our favorite movies that go bump in the night. These are the movies you want to watch at midnight with all the lights off. No cell phones, no laptops, no distractions. Environment is everything and really letting yourself get drawn into a good horror movie can lead to more than a few legitimate scary moments. I think you’ll be surprised. So turn off the phone, grab a bowl of popcorn, hit the lights and beam one of these fine films through your eyeballs.
My choice? Australian import The Loved Ones.
Synopsis: Brent’s dad is teaching him how to drive one morning. They banter back and forth playfully when a young boy stumbles shirtless and bleeding directly into the road. Brent swerves to avoid him, but crashes the car into a tree killing his father. Six months later, life is starting to turn back to normal, at least for Brent, though his mother is still struggling with the loss. When Lola Stone asks Brent to the school dance, he politely declines, not wanting to hurt her feelings, but explaining that’s he’s already going with his girlfriend Holly. Unfortunately for Brent, Lola isn’t the type of girl to take no for an answer. While Brent is taking a hike before the dance, Lola’s father knocks him and kidnaps him, bringing him back to the Stone home where a different, deadlier dance is planned.
There are plenty of great scenes and a strangely catchy tune that will undoubtedly get stuck in your hand. Fork flesh carving and power tools both make grisly appearances like salt in open wounds. I’m not about to spoil the greatest scene in this movie, but suffice it to say that there’s something even more sinister going on underneath the surface of this film. And when Lola and her father move to reveal their biggest secret, it will knock you on your ass.
Lola inflicts plenty of damage on Brent. Areas of pain include head trauma, foot trauma, chest trauma, and compound fractures while instruments run the gamut from hammers and knives to cars and power tools to seasoning and even boiling water. Rest assured that plenty of blood is spilled before the credits role.
Brent screws his girlfriend in her new car providing the films only full on boob shot. There’s plenty of awkward sexual tension between Lola and her father and her interactions with Brent are often sexually charged. There’s also a subplot with Brent’s friend taking a hot Goth chick to the dance. He’s kind of a goofy kid and it’s a triumphant moment when he finally scores in the backseat of his car.
This isn’t a film that’s meant to be truly scary or frightening exactly. There are no moments to make you jump and there’s nothing to make you look over your shoulder or anything. But what it may lack in these areas it more than makes up for with horrifying situations and imagery. Lola and her dad are truly batshit insane and many of the sequences where they go the craziest are stylistically shot and cut to put the viewer in the moment. It’s jarring, confusing and yes, ultimately terrifying to think that someone could find themselves at these people’s mercy.
The Loved Ones is a simple but terrific horror film. It tore the roof when it played as part of the midnight slate at SXSW in 2010. It’s a great film to watch with a crowd, really well filmed with a bright, saturated color palette, that looks even better when the shiny, red blood starts flying. The mostly unknown cast all put in stellar performances allowing you to focus on the story being told. Paramount is in the process of purchasing the film for the US, and I sincerely hope they can work out some kind of theatrical distribution. Until then, region locked DVD and Blu-ray versions are available for import from the UK.