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[SXSW ’12 Interview] Sean Byrne Talks Danger, Fun And The Edge Of Sanity In ‘The Loved Ones’!

The Loved Ones

Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones just played at the SXSW Film Festival and will be making its way to theaters in June via Tugg and Paramount. Tugg is “an innovative collective action web platform that enables individuals to choose the films that play at local theaters.” Learn more about ithere.

I spoke with Byrne earlier this week about The Loved Ones, Tugg and how he kept a sense of danger and subversion present in his shiny horror-pop confection of a movie.

Lola Stone asked Brent Mitchell to the prom, but Brent said no, and now he’s screwed. What happens when Lola doesn’t get what she wants? She enlists Daddy’s help to throw a prom of her own, where she is queen and Brent is king — whether he likes it or not. ‘The Loved Ones’ is what happens when puppy love goes horribly, violently wrong. Brent should have said yes….

Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Xavier Samuel, John Brumpton, Robin McLeavy all star.

Hit the jump to check out the interview! So The Loved Ones premiered last night at SXSW. How did that go?

Unfortunately I wasn’t there because I’m on a deadline. But from our reports, even on a pouring night it played really well. The audience laughed and screamed in all the right places, according to what I was told. The last SXSW screening I attended was one of the best I’d ever been to. I just wanted to pick the audience up and put them in my pocket.

Your film almost takes a hyper-violent route through John Hughes territory. Maybe even a little riff on Carrie as well. Where did the vision for this tone come from?

I was looking at low budget feature models that hadn’t been explored before. And I started thinking about what if I fused Carrie with a “cabin in the woods” type genre film and brought the prom to the cabin. The dancing, the crowning of the king and queen takes place within the traditional structure of a cabin film, so it fuses two very popular subgenres. The “Cabin” and the “Prom”. And the whole high school angle just lended itself to a really classic riff on those John Hughes films like Pretty In Pink and Sixteen Candles. And I think the color and the vibrancy of those films are what separates this tonally from a lot of the more nihilistic horror out there. It’s a veritable party for the eyes. The key word is “fun”.

With casting Robin as Lola and Xavier as Brent, what were some of the key elements you absolutely needed the actors to bring to the role?

I thank my lucky stars for the day Robin walked into the audition room. This is a girl who’s had an incredibly messed up socialization, and she has to be spoiled, bratty, lonely and sexy and confused and schizoid. She has to walk a very delicate tightrope without ever sacrificing the fun tone of the film. She came in and she’d done her homework. She was able to play the girl and not play the monster.

And Xavier, he was in a coming of age film called September and I realized there he could emote and tell a story through his eyes and body language. Which is important, because in The Loved Ones he’s strapped to a chair for a good deal of the film.

I think the casting of the two of them is what gives the film some of its personality. It’s a tug-of-war between the two of them. Lola is all fractured and pink charisma, and Brent is stuck in this chair and he can’t verbalize.

Unfortunately, with distribution the way it is, even some of the very best horror movies don’t get to come out right away. Cabin In The Woods is just now coming out and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane remains unreleased. What was it like to have this film you’re proud of just sit there for a while?

It’s frustrating. But it’s frustrating for reasons people might not expect. I don’t own the film so I have no say in the release model. But the film had offers from day one, it’s just that the production company that owns the film genuinely believed that it had a chance to crossover and reach a wide audience. It’s right on the edge but it’s still a very commercial film. So they were prepared to hold out in the hope that it could find a distributor such as Insurge that has a history of taking lower budget horror films and casting a wide net for them.

And Paramount is working with Tugg to get the film in theaters in June. Are you excited about Tugg’s ability to give audience members more of a say in what gets booked in their multiplex?

Definitely. I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s brilliant to put the power back in the hands of the audience. It gives them a chance to vote with their voice and actually turn up with their feet.

It could be helpful in pinpointing market interest in certain areas, when a print gets to theaters it’s because people wanted it there.

It’s a really smart model. The release models are so complicated and there’s so much clutter that it’s hard for a small film to find a voice. I think it’s great, it allows word of mouth to have an impact and gives The Loved Ones a voice it might not otherwise have. I very excited about it. I’m hoping people turn up.

Is there one thing you’d want the audience to know before seeing your film? Before they ask Tugg to play it in their town?

I was trying to make a film that would remind people why they fell in love with the genre in the first place. It takes you to the edge of sanity but never loses its sense of fun. To me, a horror movie is meant to freak an audience out. if you don’t go there, then you’re not giving the audience a full experience. I want the audience to enjoy it. Around the world audiences laugh and scream and have a hell of a good time. I think it’s a really rewarding film to see in a packed theater. Even though it’s a modern, shiny pop horror movie, it’s dangerous and fun.

The Loved Ones



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