See "The Loved Ones" with your Loved Ones (if you dare)!


Many horror movies have been made about high school outcasts.  High School in itself can be and is a real horror story for many kids across the world. "The Loved Ones," tells such a story that goes to extreme and disturbing lengths.  The movie is from and based in Victoria, Australia and when it comes to bat shit crazy movies the Aussies really go all out.  Lola (Robin McLeavy) is a seemingly shy and meek girl who gathers her courage to ask her crush Brent (Xavier Samuel) to the prom.  While Brent who looks a lot like the late Heath Ledger, already has a girlfriend he is going with.  He politely declines her offer and leaves.  Obviously hurt and disappointed Lola who with help from her father have plans to make it a night to remember.

Ever since Brent was involved in a car accident that took his dad's life he has never been the same.  He was driving at the time and blames himself for his death.  His mom has also become an emotional zombie.  He spends his days smoking pot, listening to heavy metal music and contemplating suicide.  His girlfriend Holly is caring and supportive but can only do so much.  Just before picking her up for the dance he goes on another one of his lonely contemplative walks when he is assaulted and kidnapped.  If you can connect the dots you'll guess that it was Lola and her father.  They bring him to their house and tie him to a chair.

A lot of what we see in the first half of "The Loved Ones" is nothing new, but things do get a lot better.  Brent is tortured by Lola and her father.  The family along with their creepy comatose almost dead mother is somewhat reminiscent of the crazy family from "Texas Chainsaw" but so many films have gone there it has become quite the horror cliché.  At one point Brent does escape but is quickly rounded up.   

There is another storyline going on that really doesn't seem too fit.  It follows Brent's BFF Jaime as he takes this Goth chick to the prom.  They spend most of the time in the car drinking, smoking pot and being uncomfortable with each other until they start making out.  There are some good character moments and the filmmakers do try to link up some of the characters and their "loved ones" towards the end but the whole storyline seems a little misguided.  A third storyline involves Holly, Brent's mother, and a policeman as they search for Brent.

Lola's torture of Brent starts going to extreme lengths and we also find out a bunch of disturbing backstory of the family and what is really going on in their house.  Brent is not her first plaything as there have been many others just like him, and she is getting good at it.  The movie continues to go down a very dark path and gets just as insane as Lola and her father.  Brent throughout his ordeal shows a strong will to live as he fights back against his captors with every chance he gets.  The movie comes in at a very trim hour and twenty minutes and although it was made on a tight budget it looks and feels like something that cost a whole lot more.  The violence and gore are pretty intense and extremely well done.  This is director Sean Byrne feature debut and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.  "The Loved Ones" is available on DVD or Blu-ray and is a must see for any horror fan.

"Sinister" starring Ethan Hawke


"Sinister" follows a recent trend of low budget horror movies to make it to theatres and actually do quite well.  Usually done in the found footage format, a sort of evolution of the Blair Witch style.  This film is director Scott Derrickson's return to form from the disastrous crap fest "The Day the Earth Stood Still".  His breakout film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" was one of the sleeper hits of 2005.  What's different about "Sinister" is that it owes a lot to its clever premise and script by first-timer C. Robert Cargil.

Ethan Hawke anchors this film as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt, who has been trying to recapture the success of his first book "Kentucky Blood".  His wife and two young children move to a new town for each new book and now they have arrived in a small Pennsylvania town where an entire family was hanged, except for one of the kids that went missing.  Ellison also fails to mention to his family that they are moving into the actual murder house.  The local authorities are not too happy with their new residents as Ellison usually paints the local police as inept bumbling idiots who botch investigations.

Instead of the standard creepy basement, we get the standard creepy attic where Ellison finds a box of old 8mm home movies.  They all have innocuous titles like Family BBQ, Pool Party, Lawn Work, Hanging Out and so on.  Desperate for leads and information on the murdered family he watches the movies only to find out that they are snuff films.  Sort of reminiscent of the Nic Cage film "8 MM".  Ellison is now determined to find out who made these films.  Although he contemplates reporting this to the police, he is blinded by the thought of what this could do for his fledgling career.  Ellison is a very self-absorbed and fame-obsessed man.  He tasted celebrity once and will stop at nothing to feel it again, even if it means putting his family at risk.  His son already suffers from night terrors which are becoming worse while at the new house.

After repeated viewings of the films, he starts to notice a shadowy figure in each of them.  He finds out that this is a pagan deity called Bughuul, the eater of children, who lives inside the images.  The films are a gateway to his world that Ellison has now opened, putting his kids in grave danger.  Ghosts and demons living in images is something you see in a lot in Japanese and other Asian horror movies like "The Ring", "Shutter", and others.  "Sinister" does a good job mixing and matching several common horror elements into a cleverly made film.  It's not something that's going to reinvent the genre, but it's always nice to see new twists in the same old thing.  The way the story and the whole mythology is structured they could and probably will make several sequels.

It's Never too Late to take "Carrie" to the Prom!

Carrie (1976)

*May contain some Spoilers*

Destined for another remake later this Summer "Carrie" is a cult horror icon.  Originating from the mind of the horror maestro himself Stephen King in 1976.  It was his first published novel and the first to be adapted into a movie.  "Carrie" was directed by Brian De Palma and King didn't have any other involvement to the film.  De Palma had directed the thriller "Sisters" three years earlier and  "Carrie" looked to be the perfect fit for his next film.

The role of the painfully shy and meek high school student Carrie White was played by the amazing Sissy Spacek who just a few years earlier co-starred with Martin Sheen in Terrence Malick's debut feature "Badlands".  Carrie lives in suburbia with her religious fanatic mother played to crazy perfection by Piper Laurie.  Margaret White keeps a pretty tight grasp on her daughter's life, but when Carrie unknowingly has her first period after gym class and is unmercifully tormented, she begins to lose control of her now changing daughter.  The only problem that I have with this is that fact that she is 17 and just now getting her period, kind of weird.

The films opening scenes of the high school girls locker room (in slow motion) feel rather gratuitous, but I believe that De Palma is an intelligent director and uses this scene to emphasize how different the "regular" girls are from the supremely innocent and naive Carrie, whose shower takes a terrifying turn.  Carrie is humiliated beyond belief until she is saved by the Gym Teacher.  While Carrie is in the principal's office we start to become aware of her special powers.  We can also tell how dated this movie is since the principal can smoke while in his office.  An ashtray is mysteriously flung off his desk and Carrie is sent home to be with her mother who has been dreading this day for years.  She preaches that sex and sexuality is evil and will buy you a one-way ticket to hell and damnation.  Carrie comes off as a Virgin Mary type but her mother can only keep her pure and innocent for so long.  It religion versus nature.

We also get to know a bunch of Carrie's classmates like the bitchy prima donna Chris who instigates   In another instance of the film being dated is when the gym teacher actually slaps her in the face for confronting her on being punished for what she did to Carrie.  When none of the other kids have her back or defend her, Chris and her macho boyfriend Billy (John Travolta), who also likes to slap her around a bit, must think of a grand plan for revenge.  Sue Snell is the other popular girl.  She starts to feel terrible about what they did to Carrie and wants her boyfriend, the curly blonde adonis Tommy Ross, to ask Carrie to the prom instead of her.  Tommy agrees but has to work on Carrie to get her to open up and let him into her world.  Carrie, expecting another prank, finally gives in accepts Tommy's invitation.  Her life starts to turn around and her self confidence is at an all-time high.  She starts fighting back against her oppressive and prudish mother.  She will not be denied this one chance of happiness and sense of belonging. 
the bullying of Carrie.

Once at the prom she looks and feels like Cinderella with everything going as planned.  Little does she know that Chris, Billy, and his goons have a twisted plan of their own that they're about to unleash.  Just like a dream come true Carrie and Tommy are voted king and queen of the prom.  This is the point where everything comes to a head, and Carrie is humiliated for the last time.  Now nobody will survive Carrie's wrath as she unleashes her telekinetic powers.  Like a cold and calculating modern day school shooter, she takes out all of her rage and frustration on the partygoers, the guilty and the innocent.

Carrie finds her way home and has a final showdown with her mother.  The ending is kind of strange and could use a little bit more, but the final scene with Sue Snell is one for the ages.  One final thought: How many homage's to Hitchcock's "Psycho" can you find while watching Carrie?