Look, I’ve written about The Loved Ones before, in my slasher list a few months ago. And for that reason, I figured that I should probably stop banging on about it – if I’ve covered something on this blog once, I try not to keep thrusting it in your general direction.
But really? This is horror season, and we’re going to talk about all things fuckin’ scary. Which means that I have an excuse to talk about The Loved Ones again, and my weird attachment to this horrible little piece of Australian horror.
Written and directed by Sean Byrne (who also created the excellent The Devil’s Candy and needs to make more fucking movies, thank you so much), The Loved Ones follows Samuel (Xavier Harris), a teenage boy grappling with causing the accidental death of his father, who finds himself trapped in a torture-fest overseen by one of his classmates (Robin McLeavy) after he turns down her invitation to a school dance.
Honestly, the thing that really sticks with me in this movie is Robin McLeavy’s Lola. Teenage girls in horror are one of my personal favourite villainous tropes, but I don’t think any film has taken it to these extremes and still made it work. Teenage girls are too often sanitized for my liking, written off as either barely-legal jailbait for audiences to drool over, or sulky, moody posers with nothing better to do.
The Loved Ones, though? The Loved Ones hits a fucking sweet spot for me in the depiction of something that I just don’t see enough. and something that I immediatley connected with. Okay, no, I’m not holding murder parties for the boys who rejected me in high school, but there is a commitment here to really capturing the deranged hyper-focus that comes with being a teenage girl – this is a child who’s basically been told her entire life that she deserves her fairytale ending, that every detail is going to be just how she imagined it for her entire life, and that the entire world will take the knee in front of what she knows she’s entitled to.
One of the recurring motifs in the film is a particular song that she listens to as she puts on her pink dress and her sparkly lip-gloss, and I swear I felt myself imprint on her in that moment, saw a reflection of all the dozens of times I listened to the Perfect Song and put on the Perfect Dress and wore the Perfect Lipgloss and was sure that I would get everything that I had been promised if I just tried hard enough. That intensity is a little scary in retrospect, and, shifted into a pure horror context, it made sense to me in a way it never had before. Teenage girls are terrifying – not because of what they are, but because of what they’re told that they need to be, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to make that happen.
I’m strangely attached to this slasher movie, and I get that relating so hard to a character like Lola is kind of odd. But The Loved Ones captures something so well that I just haven’t seen explored before, and I think I’m always going to keep coming back to it to deliver on that. If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you made of it – and if you haven’t, I’d figure out just how good you are with nail guns before you jump in. But otherwise, I can’t reccommend it enough!
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Youtube)