The concept of a final girl was coined by Carol Clover and is used to describe the young woman that is inevitably left alive at the end of a slasher/horror movie to save herself from her tormentors because if anyone else has tried they’ve failed miserably. The Loved Ones turns this concept on its head.

Brent’s mom has been very protective since his father died, but that only means Brent (Xavier Samuel) spends less time at home, does drugs and has car sex with his hot and supportive girlfriend (Victoria Thaine). Lola (Robin McLeavy) is an outcast at school and when she asks Brent to be her date for the dance she doesn’t take his rejection lightly. Suddenly Brent is missing – Lola is having her own dance and Brent is her king while her father is their very strict chaperone.

The Misery-style relationship between male and female characters is rarely seen anymore, but The Loved Ones does it with such intensity and originality it is impossible not to applaud the film. On the other hand, the violence is often cringe-worthy and the filmmakers do not shy away from any of it; in this way, it is very similar to the popular Saw franchise – except that the perpetrators are very present to revel in their work. Often it would seem they can go no further, but then they find new bloody territory to venture into despite the audience’s instincts saying they couldn’t possibly.

Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes described the film as a cross between Misery, Pretty in Pink and Carrie – and that’s a fairly accurate description if you add The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the mix. The anticipation and terror the movie builds throughout is effective and powerful, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats or buried deep in their chairs. The final third of the film is particularly strong as it’s action-packed and brutal. Many may be thankful for the awkward prom date story told in parallel, providing a break from the violence.

The film was really well casted. Samuel is excellent as Lola’s helpless victim. He’s rendered speechless for most of the film but manages to deliver a convincing performance through mostly just his eyes. McLeavy is fantastic by all definitions of the word – the level of insanity she displays is unbelievable, while the nightmare she creates is so far outside reality. The other actors are adequate though their characters are nearly lost against the torture party; an exception may be Jessica McNamee, who portrayed a delinquent goth girl trying everything to escape her life.

This film takes intimate torture to new heights.

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