Friday, July 27, 2012

The Loved Ones

Take the magic of prom night and combine it with the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you have an idea of what to expect from The Loved Ones, a terrific horror movie from Australia.

A short synopsis: Brent and his father get into a car wreck and his father is killed.  Six months later we find Brent cutting himself and self-medicating as he deals with the loss of his father, as well as his perception that his mother blames him for the death of his father.  He is also dating a very nice girl named Holly.  Prom is the next night and he plans on attending with Holly.  Another girl in school – Lola – asks Brent to go, but he turns her down (but he’s really nice about it). 

But Lola is insane.  So – nice rejection or no – she has Brent kidnapped and taken back to her house, where she proceeds to dress him in a tux, tie him to a chair, and inject bleach into his throat so he can’t talk/scream.

And you can probably tell where the movie goes from there.  There is a lot of torture.  There are a number of escape attempts by Brent.  More torture.  And Lola being crazy.  Sweet bearded Moses is Lola crazy.  The actress plays crazy so well that I have to assume that she herself is actually a little unhinged.  You can’t play crazy that well without being a little crazy yourself (using this logic, after watching American Psycho, I’m terrified of ever meeting Christian Bale).

This is what I wondered about after the movie was over: how did Lola fit into everyday life?  Was she just the awkward loner in school?  We don’t really see much of her early in the movie, and it’s obvious from the events that take place that she is off-her-rocker crazy (and has been for quite some time).  The kind of crazy that it’s hard to hide.  The kind of crazy that doesn’t know there’s anything to hide.  But she was obviously able to survive in this world by hiding the crazy to some degree.  Still, after watching this movie, I just kept thinking, “How did she hide it?  How did she interact with other people?”   Certainly they had their suspicions that something was wrong, beyond the standard “Well, she’s just a little odd” response…right?  Beyond the whole “crazy torturer” thing, she also has more than a hint of “madly in incestuous love with my father” thing going on, and that kind of thing tends to get noticed, especially in a small town (it is never said how big the town is, but it seems to be pretty small).

This isn’t Dexter Morgan we’re talking about.  Dexter knows there’s something wrong with him, and tries hard to hide that part of himself so that he can fit in.  Lola is the kind of girl who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to walk down the road in a pink prom dress, covered in blood and holding a knife.  In broad daylight.  Lola is a special kind of crazy, and you can’t hide that level of crazy.
I don’t know why, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that since the movie ended.  I would watch a 10 minute scene of Lola interacting with people in school, just to see how well she is able to pull it off.

I think that’s about enough of my Lola-musings.

I really loved this movie.  It was a little different.  It was a little disturbing, but not in a “shock value” kind of way.  There was quite a bit of torture, and, while it wasn’t nearly as graphic as Saw, it also wasn’t exactly Saturday morning cartoons, either.  There was a lot of blood.  There were a lot of moments that made me cringe, but there weren’t any sickening moments that made me want to turn it off. 

This seemed pretty “bright” for a horror movie.  While a lot of the movie happened at night, they were usually in a well-lit house (there was another storyline going at the same time as Brent’s torture, involving Brent’s friend and a goth girl at the prom, and those scenes seemed to look much darker than the torture scenes).  And there was also the matter of Lola’s pink dress.  It’s hard for a room to look dark when that pink dress is there…even if the person in that pink dress happens to be holding a drill.

I realize I have brought up “torture” a lot, but this is by no means a torture porn.  This is a well-crafted horror movie with a decent dash of humor (at least, I laughed a number of times.  Not sure if that was the correct response or not).  There were moments that really did remind me of (the original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that might just be my normal reaction when I see a bunch of crazy people sitting around a table.

This also took the idea of the survivor girl and turned it around.  Brent made a tremendous survivor girl.  He did pretty much everything imaginable to escape the clutches of Lola and her maniac father.  He kicks, climbs trees, slashes faces, and a does many more things that I won’t mention for fear of venturing into spoiler territory.  Sure, he gets a little help along the way, but he is most definitely a fighter.

It had a great mood throughout, good characters, terrific acting, and a tremendous soundtrack (they made perfect – and recurring – use of Kasey Chambers’ “Not Pretty Enough”).  You really need to see The Loved Ones.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, July 9, 2012


At the beginning of the movie, we see a child murder his mother with an axe for daring to pull him away from a naked-lady puzzle, then gleefully saw her head off and put it in the closet.  He then continues to put together his puzzle because…hey!  Naked lady!  When the cops show up, he hides in the closet and pretends to cry.  The cops – finding the boy in a closet covered in blood – assume someone else killed his mother (probably because the cops in horror movies are usually pretty inept).

 Fast forward 30 years or so.  A killer is running loose at a college, murdering pretty young girls and chopping off body parts with a chainsaw (if I’m not mistaken, the first victim is having a little “picnic for one” and ends up losing her head).  These kinds of scenes are interspersed with the killer putting together the naked lady puzzle.  We quickly realize that he’s putting together a human puzzle from the “pieces” of the women he kills.  A head from one.  A torso from another.  An arm from another.  And so on.  So he’s trying to put together a Frankenstein monster, but without the whole “making it come alive” aspect.  Since he kept his mothers shoes and dress, it seems pretty clear that he’s trying to put his “mother” back together.  Of course, it’s also quite feasible that he just wants a cobbled-together naked lady in his closet.  Whatever works, I suppose.

Apparently the cops in this town are all really busy, so they enlist the help of a college student named Kendall (even giving him access to confidential police files, based on the “he seems trustworthy” logic) and a female tennis pro named Mary (who works undercover with the police, and goes into the college under the guise of being a tennis instructor).  This leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie, when we actually see her playing tennis.  It looks as though she has never actually played tennis a day in her life.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find a clip.  But I guess that just means you'll have to watch the movie for yourself to see it.  Trust's well worth it.

Mary is also responsible for one of my other favorite scenes in the movie.  Kendall and her – getting ready to play tennis after a long day of not searching for the murderer – find another dead body in the locker room (a girl that was cut in half).  This does not make Mary happy.  Please watch this clip.  Then watch it again.  And again.

Throughout the movie, the police just seem mildly annoyed by the murders.  Even when they find out who the killer is (and they realize that Mary is over at his house), they do an awful lot of standing around when they should be running.  Of course, I guess I shouldn’t be judging their department too harshly.  A police department that brings in a college student and a tennis “pro” on to help with a brutal murderer is obviously hurting for funds.

Also, for some reason, a karate guy in a jumpsuit pops attacks Mary in the middle of the movie.  There really isn’t any reasoning given for this.  Or perhaps there is and I forgot it.  Because “random karate guy” is a lot more fun than “explained karate guy”.

The last scene was tremendous.  I don’t want to give anything away (apparently I’m loathe to spoil the ending of a movie that came out 30 years ago), but Kendall makes this face: 

There were so many fantastic characters (the groundskeeper who gives everyone the stink-eye, the professor with the pencil moustache, Kendall’s nerdy werewolf-mask-wearing best friend, etc.) and a ton of terrific quotes.  Here are some of my favorites:

“The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and f***ing on a waterbed, at the same time.”

“I guess I'm so used to bodies...dead ones...that I'm callous.”

“Professor Brown – you see – is a homosexual.”

This movie was terrible, but very, very entertaining.  I loved it.  It was pure 80s b-movie schlock, with rampant nudity and gore.  And it was wonderful.  I can see myself re-watching this many times.  It seems like a fun one to sit around and watch with friends.

Rating: 5/5

He looks like this in every single one of his scenes