In 2005, Greg McLean's 'Wolf Creek' introduced a new sub-genre to the horror tradition, that of the Outback slasher. This year, the Aussie filmmaker passes the baton on to Sean Byrne, whose film 'The Loved Ones' also takes place in rural Australia but is arguably more violent than its predecessor. The first-time filmmaker's "retro-deranged date movie" has taken the cinema world by the cojones and could be the first in a series of new "hot-pink horrors."

'The Loved Ones' hero is Brent (Xavier Samuel), a metal-headed marijuana smoker who cuts himself to numb the pain of his father's recent death. Things start to look up when he and his girlfriend are set to attend the prom, until Brent's secret admirer reveals she has other plans. Lola (aka "Princess," played by Robin McLeavy) has decided she wants Brent to herself and will not take no for an answer. Her fluorescent pink prom dress and glittery make-up may look harmless, but they thinly veil a madness that only Jeffery Dahmer could understand.

"Red is usually the colour of horror, but in our case it's hot pink," Byrne says with a laugh. The Aussie filmmaker was in Toronto to attend the film festival premiere of 'The Loved Ones' and spoke to Moviefone about 'Twilight' star Xavier Samuel, and why Australians are so good at horror.
In 2005, Greg McLean's 'Wolf Creek' introduced a new sub-genre to the horror tradition, that of the Outback slasher. This year, the Aussie filmmaker passes the baton on to Sean Byrne, whose film 'The Loved Ones' also takes place in rural Australia but is arguably more violent than its predecessor. The first-time filmmaker's "retro-deranged date movie" has taken the cinema world by the cojones and could be the first in a series of new "hot-pink horrors."

'The Loved Ones' hero is Brent (Xavier Samuel), a metal-headed marijuana smoker who cuts himself to numb the pain of his father's recent death. Things start to look up when he and his girlfriend are set to attend the prom, until Brent's secret admirer reveals she has other plans. Lola (aka "Princess," played by Robin McLeavy) has decided she wants Brent to herself and will not take no for an answer. Her fluorescent pink prom dress and glittery make-up may look harmless, but they thinly veil a madness that only Jeffery Dahmer could understand.

"Red is usually the colour of horror, but in our case it's hot pink," Byrne says with a laugh. The Aussie filmmaker was in Toronto to attend the film festival premiere of 'The Loved Ones' and spoke to Moviefone about 'Twilight' star Xavier Samuel, and why Australians are so good at horror.

You've said that in making 'The Loved Ones,' you wanted to unite 'Carrie' and 'Evil Dead.' What in those movies struck a chord with you?
The main reason I thought about 'Evil Dead' is because it brilliantly used one location, which is essential to low-budget horror. I was desperate to get a film off the ground and the key to that is not having too many locations. I wanted to take the 'Evil Dead' template and then mix it with something like 'Carrie.' [That is] take the traditions of the prom - the dancing, the mirror balls, the pink dresses - and turn all those things into instruments of torture.

How did you develop the character of Lola?
When I started writing ['The Loved Ones'], my niece was five years old. She was just completely obsessed with princesses and she had her fairy wings and that speech pattern that I found really fascinating. Then, everywhere I looked little kids were always wearing pink. I thought, imagine you had this character and because of her complicated socialization, she has never grown out of that princess
phase - she still somehow believes that one day her prince will come. I put that kind of thought process into the body of an adolescent with raging hormones and a desperate need for acceptance. I thought it would create this great personality that's somewhere between Sissy Spacek's Carrie and Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes from 'Misery.'

How did you find actress Robin McLeavy?

I was genuinely scared of casting [Lola] because I knew if we didn't get that right, no matter what sort of preparation we did, the film would fall down. For the audience to be in the hero's shoes, we have to be scared of this force that's coming at us. Robin McLeavy really runs the whole gamut from the child to the monster. You believe all the change-ups in her performance. If she can do this role, there's nothing she can't do.


How did you decide on Kasey Chamber's "Am I Not Pretty Enough?" as Lola's soundtrack?
It was number one for five weeks in Australia [laughs]. Lyrically I think it's apt. Also, it was a big hit in Australia and I think Princess is a Top 40 kind of girl. She's not rifling through the independent music stores. I was looking for a classic commercial ballad for which there'd be absolutely no cynicism; Lola would just be emotive and disconnected. [The musical choices] also subverted the horror form in that the good guy is the one who listens to the devil's music and the monster is the one that listens to ballads.

I would guess you share the same musical taste as Brent.
Brent was definitely my lead in. I'm a big heavy metal fan. Also, I struggled to get a film off the ground for several years, that's why I ended up writing a horror - it's a proven genre and there's a
market for it. It's amazing how frustrated you get as a filmmaker when you're trying to get something off the ground and it's not happening. All that anger I was feeling and the rejection, I thought I would just put all of that into the film. It was almost like I was sticking up my middle finger at the world.

Why did you decide to cast Xavier Samuel as Brent?
I had seen in him in a low-budget Australian coming-of-age film called 'September' [Peter Carstairs, 2007]. He's confident in his own ability to not do too much. [Brent is] an incredibly difficult role because he's basically tied to a chair for 60% of the film. Also, he can't talk, but it's really important that there's an arc. It's the less showy role and sometimes that role's more difficult.

Did you ever worry that the film might be too graphic?
I was trying to go as far as I could because with low-budget horror, that's all you've got. In Australia you're confronted with American films that have their trailers on the television every 10 minutes. [Local filmmakers] don't have the money for that kind of brainwashing, so films are found through word of mouth. I wanted it to be hard core and I wanted horror fans to think it pushed the envelope.

Why is Australian horror so innovative?
Australia has a great history of just balls to the wall genre, from 'Mad Max' to 'Razorback.' 'Wolf Creek' re-opened doors in Australia for the horror genre. I'm extremely thankful to Greg McLean for coming up with that film.