Hell hath no fury, indeed! In The Loved Ones, the Aussie gorefest that closed out The Film Society’s Scary Movies series this weekend, a rejected ugly-duckling doesn’t get her revenge by taking off her glasses, letting her hair down and proving beautiful (a la She’s All That, or countless sitcom episodes). She gets it by going psychokidnapper, sending her father, who wouldn’t be too out of place amid the Texas Chainsaw Massacre clan, to abduct her uninterested love interest on the night of the big dance and bring him home for a prom of their own.
As father and daughter, John Brumpton and Robin McLeavy are skin-crawling in their sociopathic glee, slathering in incestuous undertones their roles as baby-talking milk-chuggers who’ll drive a knife through your foot, slam a nail through your dick, or scrape a fork across your chest—and then chuck salt in the fresh wounds. As it progresses, The Loved Ones spirals into horrible, horrifying places, moving from queasy set-up to, among other things, an excruciatingly prolonged lobotomy sequence and a Descent-like dungeon with zombified cannibals. (There’s also a padding parallel-plot about a chubby dweeb on a date with a substance-abusing sexpot. It goes nowhere.)
The violence reaches a level of relentlessness so ridiculous it starts to look like comedy. The movie flails self-consciously toward the fringes of the genre, passing along the way previously established extremes of English-language horror. In fact, by its end The Loved Ones seems to have been playing a historically conscious game of one-upmanship, acknowledging its predecessors (in near-chronological order) and then flying past them. The prom night setting evokes both Prom Night and Carrie (which also played Scary Movies); the progressively extreme violence recalls American torture porn and the gore of fellow-Aussie Wolf Creek. (And the shaggy haired victim, Xavier Samuel, is a dead-ringer for Elm Street-era Johnny Depp.) Like some other recent movies from Down Under, The Loved Ones is expertly conscious of its place in the genre continuum, reinvigorating a staid formula just by acknowledging its traditional parameters.