NOVEMBER 5, 2009
SOURCE: DVD (SCREENER)
Ordinarily, if I am watching a movie and am constantly being reminded of other movies, then I’m usually annoyed. Yet despite that it called to mind several films (even an Uwe Boll one!), I enjoyed The Loved Ones, which takes elements from these films (consciously or not) and wraps them together in a fairly tight, oddly moving narrative, with a great third act that allowed me to forgive some of its familiar trappings.
Now, I’m sure you’re saying “What films?”, but I won’t be mentioning them by name. Because the film is not out yet, and I think it will work best on those who have little or no idea of what it’s about (indeed, remind me to smack Mr. Beaks for pointing out one specific connection prior to my sitting down to watch it - or smack myself for refreshing my Twitter feed instead of sitting down to watch the movie when I said I was going to), and I will do my best not to spoil anything outright (I will link to two certain films, but not name them, so as long as you don’t click on the link you should be fine).
I always like seeing a better version of an existing story, and in that department, The Loved Ones delivers. The tone and everything else are different, but in terms of a one line synopsis, the film is very similar to this one, and at first I worried that I would feel the same way about this one (i.e. that I really wouldn’t like it at all). But like I said, they only share that base plotline, and as Loved Ones went on I found myself thinking less and less of that other film (and others it reminded me of - it’s interesting how it starts out on familiar ground and eventually finds its own voice).
One thing never quite gelled for me though, which is the “B plot” of the hero’s best buddy going on a date with the hottest (or at least, loosest) girl in school. I spent the first half of the movie wondering why I was watching these people at all, and the 2nd half wondering how their story would mesh with the main one. And it never really does; instead we discover that the girl is related to someone who played an important part in the main story. It’s a nice little plot point, but I’m not sure if it was worth constantly breaking the tension of the “A plot” to give us an update on these folks (I do like how the reveal essentially changes who this subplot was really about, however).
In fact, what I really dug is the sort of Magnolia-esque way that all of the people in the film are connected, and how so much of the plot can be traced back to a single incident at the beginning of the film (in this case a car accident, which ultimately led to my being reminded of this film). This sort of cause-and-effect plotting is rarely seen in a horror film, and had the horror elements been slightly less overdone (not spoiling anything - it’s likely to be labeled torture porn by some ignoramus) the film could have been an A+ knockout instead of merely a solid film.
I also liked how the villain’s “theme song” was a song I knew. I forget how it got lumped in with my college radio show (which was primarily alt/pop rock stuff from the likes of Tonic and Athenaeum), but I recall playing Kasey Chambers’ “Pretty Enough” on one of my broadcasts, and it must have struck a chord with me, because I recognized it instantly when it was used here. A lot of movies use a song as a motif, but it’s rare that the song in question is one I know (not counting traditional songs like "Camptown Races" in the original Stepfather). It made me feel special!
I also liked that one of the villains resembled a deranged Jonathan Pryce.
And (again) without spoiling anything, I nearly stood up and cheered at the final money shot in the film. Director Sean Byrne (who also wrote the screenplay) has this long, silent tracking shot of a character who is about to meet their certain death, and I thought for sure it was going to end ambiguously, or simply play a sound effect over black. But no, just when you think it’s about to fade out or whatever, Byrne delivers the impact shot after all. It’s a brilliant sleight of hand, and kudos to editor Andy Canny for nailing the cut on the exact right frame.
As for a US release, the film is currently playing at the AFM (American Film Market), which is exactly what it sounds like - a market for films (though the “American” part is slightly off, this one is from Australia). So hopefully, we will be hearing about US distribution soon (*crosses fingers* Magnolia/Magnet? Or maybe next year’s Ghost House Underground set?). I wish Mr. Byrne the best of luck.
What say you?