Discussing The Twisted Prom Horror Of The Loved Ones With Robin McLeavy

Now playing in select US cinemas is The Loved Ones, a small gem of a horror film. Sean Byrne‘s prom nightmare stars Robin McLeavy as the rather damaged and tragic yet rather scary Lola.

McLeavy certainly deserves this to be something of a break-out role, and I’ve been very keen to see what she’s given to do in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter later in the summer.

So, here’s some of what Ms. McLeavy had to tell me about Lola, The Loved Ones and horror films in general when we met back at the time of the film’s UK premiere at 2010′s Frightfest.

1. On Horror Films

I’m a complete wimp with horror, which is ridiculous, but I have been cured of my fear of blood. Now I understand how prosthetics and special effects work all their magic.

I really appreciated the artistry that’s involved in creating convincing effects like that. I underestimated how difficult it is to create a scary story, especially with the editing. I didn’t realize how crucial that s to setting the pace and the suspense of the film.

I’m starting to understand the knife’s edge that horror sits on, this sort of pseudo-sexual energy that’s implicit within horror films because they are so physical and so visceral and are so often about people holding power over someone else.

I think I totally underestimated the amount of interest this role would generate. I keep getting e-mails from my friend who lives over here now who says “Have you read this blog?” and “Have you read this review?” I guess it’s a good thing to work in a genre that has such a big fanbase.

2. On Lola

What appealed to me about the character was that it was a female character who was in control. I would never play a victim role because I think women are too often portrayed in a passive way, and I don’t like to see women being sexualized unnecessarily either. It was a really unique opportunity to portray a character whose on the verge of a sexual awakening but the way she’s operating is distorted. She’s been raised in a violent household so the only vocabulary she has for being intimate with someone is through violence and intimidation.

The kind of twisted upbringing she’s had is completely hinged on being mentored and instructed in violence by her father, yet there’s this intense love and familial relationship between them that starts of teetering on the edge of taboo. I’m glad we didn’t go any further than we did. When you look at other films that explore that subject… we’re just adding another dimension rather than focusing on it, but I know that people find it disturbing.

My key choices, I guess, were that she’s quite shy and withdrawn but then as soon as she gets her own way and she’s in the comfort of her own home she tries to emulate something very other from herself. She’s deeply discontented with who she is. When she gets the dress she becomes this other person, there’s this kind of flamboyance enabled. It was good to be able to have that scope of flowering into this princess.

3. On Director Sean Byrne, His Style And Approach

I thought Sean was wonderful. He’s so detailed, his preparation was so thorough, and he’s full of energy and seems like he’s had ten coffees a day. We had to move really quickly, so that was perfect.

He was very open to ideas. I’d come to him with ideas and he’d be responsive. We had three days’ rehearsal in which we did a lot of the blocking, and we had fight sessions with our fight guy, and then the entire film was storyboarded. When you’re working within a framework or a really specific style you know what kind of limitations you have and then can make the most of it.

I think the film almost has a kind of arthouse feel to it, because some of the sequences are so still and allow a strange atmosphere… and the colours…

4. On My Super Sweet 16 And Youth Culture

That kind of show is kind of indicative of the youth culture we have which is really materialistic and focused on branding and teenage sexuality being made really explicit. They were something that Sean and I discussed from the outset. I could have based my character on someone like Paris Hilton or something, but I wanted Lola to be a really regular girl who struggles socially but draws all of her inspiration from mainstream culture so she wants to be like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears but she can’t quite do it. Partly because she’s too young, partly because she’s been made to be more masculine by the way she’s violent.

5. On Australian Film

I guess we Australians have a bit of a callousness to us because we’re still a young country. I feel that we look to America a lot in terms of genre, but in terms of our own style, we’ve got a sense of isolation and we stick it out for ourselves, a bit, so I think there’s a kind of roughness to what we create. I think that’s good for horror.

Sometimes I watch the film and I think when other countries watch it… it has a kind of overworldliness. I wonder what they must think of it. The funny thing is, the director is from Tasmania, and I grew up in Tasmania, but we shout it in Melbourne and wanted it to be non-specific, but the road-kill scene, where we get the Opossum, that’s quintessentially Tasmanian. And the sense of isolation and strange people.

John Brumpton’s accent is very Australian, a bit broad, and I chose to use a slightly broader accent than my own. Lola has come from a working class family and I think that’s important in how she functions – or doesn’t function – socially.

The Loved Ones is playing in a handful of US cinemas now, while the UK DVD and Blu-ray are already bargain priced (but region locked).

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