An interview with The Loved Ones actors Robin McLeavy and Victoria Thaine
WRITTEN BY MATTHEW PEJKOVIC
The Loved Ones is quickly gathering traction as the horror movie of the year.
Unapologetically brutal, yet featuring a twisted sense of humour and poignant moments of reflection, The Loved Ones stars Twilight actor Xavier Samuel as a messed up teen who becomes the subject of a fatal attraction.
Yet the real star of the film is Robin McLeavy, who steals the show as the enamoured teen who will go to any lengths to get what she wants, in the process becoming a modern horror icon.
I was fortunate to have met Robin and her equally talented co-star Victoria Thaine, both ladies taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss The Loved Ones.
The “prom horror film” is something of a sub-genre in American cinema. Could you see The Loved Ones starting a new trend in Australian film?
Victoria Thaine: I definitely think Sean (Byrnes, writer/director) wanted to make a film that was commercial, and attractive to people not just in Australia, but overseas as well. Obviously the prom night is something teenagers can relate to here, or in America.
Robin McLeevy: Sean is kinda obsessed with the cabin in the woods horror meets the prom night horror, and he kind of mashed those two genre together, and create a new genre for this film, which is “glam horror”, which I think is pretty cool (laughs).
I have been watching a lot of Australian horror movies, and there are certain things we don’t do: the prom horror/school dance film, and teen horror movies. Or, at least I can’t think of any.
VT: I think it is a brave decision to do a teen horror film, because America obviously has a big portion of that market. It’s a risk that has paid off, though.
Many actors who play villainous roles try to find a redeeming quality in their character. Was that something you tried to do with Lola?
RM: I kinda felt like she was really violent and really vicious, but the great thing about her was that she is so childlike and playful, at the same time. So I didn’t feel like I had to find a redeeming feature, that was already on the page. But I was really aware of keeping a sense of how lonely she was, and how removed she was from normal socialisation that most teenage girls will be involved with (laughs). She had a pretty abnormal upbringing, but I just wanted to balance all of that vengeance and violence with a real loneliness, and a real need to be intimate with somebody, but not knowing how to achieve that.
Two things which surprised me. First was the use of music, but we’ll get back to that later. The second was the underlying, kinda madcap humour throughout the movie. Was that something which came out of the page, or did it only reveal itself after watching the movie?
VT: It was actually something that was more highlighted when I saw the finished product. I hadn’t expected it to be so funny, and hadn’t expected the audience to laugh (laughing). Because I think when we were filming it, especially for Robyn, it was a very intense sort of shoot, focusing on the horror of it all. So it was really a wonderful surprise to have people laugh at it, and you need that. You need that relief, when you see the film it is such a nice thing to laugh at certain points.
When you both fight each other near the end, it kind of reminded me of slapstick. And I say that with Sean in mind, because he is a big fan of Sam Raimi, and Evil Dead 2 is full of that sort of Loony Toons slapstick. So was that something he was urging between the two of you?
RM: (Laughs) No, Sean was very much...he was so serious throughout the shoot...we were all really quite serious, and when finished a task, we will start laughing. The scene we shot was really quite absurd. But in the actual moment we were really intense. But with that stuff in the car, with Victoria and I...I wasn’t aware of it, but it was a wide shot and it was quite a complicated fight scene (laughs)...we didn’t realise how hilarious it looked wide, because normally you would cut into close ups. But it was just a wide shot of two chicks in a tiny VW, in the front seats trying to kill each other.
VT: No camera tricks, no effects (laughs)...I actually thought that we were doing some really complicated movements (laughs), and that it would look like that on film. But it was this weird, sort of push and pull. It was really raw and hilarious.
RM: But then we get to have some real kick ass moments. Victoria kicks me in the face. Xavier (Samuel) and I, when we fight in the kitchen...I like all of that fighting stuff.
"I was really aware of keeping a sense of how lonely she was, and how removed she was from normal socialisation that most teenage girls will be involved with ...I just wanted to balance all of that vengeance and violence with a real loneliness, and a real need to be intimate with somebody, but not knowing how to achieve that." - Robin McLeavy
You like that physical sort of acting?
VT: It’s really primal and spontaneous, and you’re not in your head. It’s not intellectual at all...
RM: Kill, kill, kill... (laughs). It’s so much fun. Really exhilarating.
Back to the music. Your character has a something of a theme song, with the Kasey Chambers song “Am I Pretty Enought?”...
RM: It’s a very special song (laughs).
Is that something written in the script, or were there several choices to mull over?
RM: Yeah. I don’t know where Sean grabbed that idea from, but...his first impression of the character was based on his 5 year old niece, who is obsessed with pink and fairy wings...I think that just grew into an idea of young girls wanting to be pretty and gorgeous, and the Kasey Chambers song was just perfect for the idea of “am I not pretty enough” and not being validated. It’s just a perfect match for Lola. But I can’t listen to that song anymore (laughs).
VT: Sean loves music, and the songs that were in the film he was very specific about. They were all written into the script.
You had to dish out some pretty cruel punishment on Xavier. What was the experience like acting out a scene involving a power tool?
RM: It’s something I would never imagine myself to have done. But I like power tools as much as the next girl. There was something really exciting about taking a domestic object that everyone is really familiar with, like a kitchen knife, or a kettle, or a power tool and inflicting pain with those. There is something extra disturbing about it.
Yet what I liked about the film is that it shows the rippling effect these violence acts have on the families of the victims, who are usually faceless in other horror movies. Was that something that appealed to you?
VT: I really loved that Holly had more to do, then just play the girlfriend role. She had a very clear sort of story of her own, and you see her go on a little journey. I also loved the fact that she didn’t die (laughs). That she made it to the end and has a fantastic strength of her own. The film is great in that way, in that it has three very different, but very strong female characters. Jessica McNamee character is also really damaged ...
...not to give away too much, but that is because of she also is directly affected from what Lola does to these guys...
...yeah. So it was really nice to read a script where there are great female characters.
"I hadn’t expected it to be so funny, and hadn’t expected the audience to laugh. Because I think when we were filming it,it was a very intense sort of shoot, focusing on the horror of it all." -Victoria Thaine
Do either of you provide a back story for your characters?
VT: Yeah, definitely. Just in terms of....I focused on Holly and Brett’s (Xavier Samuel) relationship, the history of it, and how they have been together...you know, the more history you give a character, the more you have to draw on. Sean gave me a little ipod full of songs that Holly would listen to, and even a simple thing like that is a great insight into a character.
RM: Sean gave me a big folder of research he had done of Jeffrey Dahmer, and a whole lot of visual references from films like Misery and Carrie, to Natural Born Killers and Tarantino films...just a whole bunch of really potent images. He also had 12 pages of back story for Lola and Daddy (John Brumpton), and that was really sick and twisted and horrible! (laughs) But really helpful. Then John Brumpton and I got together and talked about what else might have happened in Lola’s short but twisted life, and we came up with some equally sick and twisted things, which we chose never to discuss ever again (laughs).
Where did either of you stood in terms of violence on screen before the film, and has your opinion changed afterwards?
RM: Well, I’m a huge martial arts fan. I love Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and I really admire fight choreography when it’s done supremely well. I think it is really exciting for an audience. But having said that, groteuetese violence, unless it is really necessary to the story and the characters, is something that’s frustrating.
But with this film the violence compliments the comedy, and its kind of got a Tarantino feel to it where the blood and the violence is kind of stylised, so it’s a lot easier to handle. Although having said that there are some pretty gruelling scenes.
And Victoria, has your opinion on violent movies having been a part of one?
VT: I guess my opinion is sort of similar to Robyn’s, in that the violence in this film sort of feels like a necessary part of the whole package. Even though it is hard to watch, I don’t think it exploits the use of violence in a grotuetes or bad way. I am biased (laughs), but I sort of feel more disturbed at violence in video games, which seems to me rather unnecessary and dangerous.
The Loved Ones will be released on the 4th of November through Madman Cinema.