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The Loved Ones (2009)

I'm going to be honest and say I really did not expect to connect with this film on the emotional level that I did. Having lost my own dad at a pivotal age in my life I could relate so closely with the emotional difficulties that our main protagonists was dealing with, the constant search and need for any form of release or distraction from the internal pain that he was suffering was a level of depth I did not see coming from the plot synopsis of this film. This independent Australian film is beautifully shot and directed by Sean Byrne, he also wrote the screen play for this film and it is very clear from the start that he has a strong passion for this project. I will be immediately checking out the rest of this man's filmography. Starting out providing plenty of exposition into our main characters back stories, something done so balanced here that it gives just the right amount of information need without feeling forced or becoming bloated.Once this took more of typical horror style turn it didn't waste any time in being as shocking and and as dark as it could. I usually take issue with films that are heavy centered around torture, films such as Hostel and the later Saw entry's. Not because I'm bothered by them, I just find them pointless shock value and more often then not lacking in any creative purpose. I think that is why I was apprehensive about this film and most probably why it has sat on my watch list for as long as it has. This is not that, everything here felt purposeful to the plot and the acting was that good and believable that it never once felt gratuitous. The casting is definitely the strongest element here and I feel had these roles gone to different actors the end result would certainly not have been as impactful as it is. Xavier Samuel plays our lead Brent, I have only seen him once before in the shark film 'Bait' (I commended his performance here too). The level of emotion, distress and determination shown by him is truly impressive and given that he doesn't say a word after the first third of the film shows true testament to his acting capabilities. Alongside him is Robin McLeavy who plays Lola, a woman who is now the most terrifying female I have seen put to screen. She too provides such a captivating performance, one that will certainly not be forgotten any time soon. We also follow two side characters, Jamie played by Richard Wilson who is Brent's best friend and his date for the prom Mia played by Jessica McNamee. As enjoyable as the characters are to watch and see their narrative play out, they never actually have any impact on the plot and don't ever intertwine with our main plot until one very small blink-and-you-miss-it moment towards the end. Granted, the arch does provide some much needed breaks from the intensity of everything going on at the house and without could make this film a lot less enjoyable than it was, I guess I was just expecting everything going on with them to have much more baring on the initial plot than it turned out to have. One thing I will say is I don't think this film is for the faint-hearted. Having some pretty intense violence inflicted on our main protagonist, it did make for quite a difficult watch at times. Some of the things he endures throughout the course of this film if mind-blowing, yet believable, due to the perfect set up done in the first third of the film. This is a relentless film that felt like it could have ended multiple times before it did and still resulted in a satisfying conclusion. This is certainly not a bad thing, it just kept going and taking on different forms and evolving into a completely different beast than I initially envisioned it being. So many 'holy shit' moments towards then end that I felt physically exhausted by the time the credits rolled. For me, this is how you make a perfect modern day horror film. It had me laughing, cheering, saddened and shouting at my screen and I can't recommend this film highly enough. It has been a very long time since I have seen a film that has made its way into my top 10 horror films and I can safely say this has done it with ease. If you haven't seen The Loved Ones than add it to your watch list immediately.



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