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Byrne talks Aussie shocker 'Loved Ones'


When troubled high-school stud Brent (Xavier Samuel) finds himself too popular on prom night, the mirror ball puts a spotlight on various instruments of torture.
When troubled high-school stud Brent (Xavier Samuel) finds himself too popular on prom night, the mirror ball puts a spotlight on various instruments of torture.

TORONTO -- "Misery" meets "Carrie" meets "Pretty in Pink" is how first time writer/director Sean Byrne's "The Loved Ones" has been described.

Screening in Toronto as part of TIFF's Midnight Madness series, the film follows what happens when troubled high-school senior Brent (played by Twilight: Eclipse star Xavier Samuel) finds himself the target of an overzealous secret admirer. All the accoutrements of prom night - the balloons and the mirror balls - turn into rituals of torture backed by syringes, nails and power drills

"With The Loved Ones, I wanted to aesthetically give the film life and colour and then try and rip it away from the audience, which is different to how horror normally operates," Byrne said in an interview on a sun-drenched terrace earlier this week.

"This is a candy-coloured popcorn film that invites the audience into a fun, pop-horror world that seems familiar. People will be in their seats, kind of comfortable, feeling like they’ve been here before and then we'll sneak up and drop acid into their soda."

Byrne, stuck on wanting to have a low-budget horror be his auspicious debut, hatched the idea for Loved Ones after he woke up one morning thinking, 'What if I fused Carrie and Evil Dead?'

"Evil Dead primarily takes place in one location, which is great for low-budget horror," Bryne said. "So I thought if we could bring the prom to the farm house it would be a fun way to play with the genre.

"It's a real mash-up," he continued. "Structurally, the film is closest to 'Misery' in terms of being set in a claustrophobic environment. But there are shades of Tarantino in the juxtaposition of the comedy and the violence. The surreal, kind of madness of Lynch. Bits of 'Dazed and Confused,'" he laughed, "even Walt Disney. I just tried to make a soup out of my influences."

Unlike some of his horror contemporaries - Eli Roth pops to mind - much of the violence takes place off camera. "A lot of the violence isn't seen, but it feels pretty visceral and in your face," he said.

"There's no point in doing a low-budget horror unless you completely go straight for the jugular. So I wanted this to be the type of film that grabs the audience by the throat, squeezes, lets up and then starts all over again."

 

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