Shrieks of delight

HORROR films are hot. Scream 4 is on the way, while the Saw franchise — started by a couple of Aussie filmmakers — is up to film number seven, and is already the highest grossing horror franchise of all time.

And Paranormal Activity, shot on a paltry budget of $15,000, was last year’s runaway success and has taken almost $200 million at the box office.

The third-most successful Australian film of the past decade — after Australia and Happy Feet — was Outback slasher Wolf Creek, which won universal acclaim.

The latest Australian horror film to hit the screens is the Mark Lazarus-produced The Loved Ones, a horror/comedy about a psychotic teenager Lola, who kidnaps and tortures the school spunk after he rejects her request to take her to a dance.

The cast includes Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton and Victoria Thaine.

In September last year, the film won the prestigious Midnight Madness audience award at the Toronto Film Festival, and Lazarus says a deal to distribute it in the United States is in the works.

“Horror is always hot. It’s a common misconception that it ever goes cold. It doesn’t,” Lazarus told The AJN.

Lazarus had been looking for a horror script for several years when first-time writer/director Sean Byrne’s screenplay came across his desk.

“I was in the waiting room of a hospital to see a doctor and was reading the script. I was almost finished when they called me in and I looked up to see all the old people in the waiting room looking at me because I’d been saying ‘Oh my God … What the …’ out loud.

“I finished the script back at my office and I didn’t even reflect. I picked up the phone and called Sean’s agent and I said, ‘I want this script’.”

It turned out that Byrne was a fan of Lazarus’ first film, Australian Rules, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“One of the reasons it works so well is that it’s not relying on the horror to entertain you. There are great characters, it’s a great story. Having some blood and some guts and some stunts does not excuse you from having a great story.”

Lazarus lined up an impressive cast of Australian youngsters for The Loved Ones, including Samuel, who went on to star in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and Packed to the Rafters actor Jessica McNamee.

The unhinged Lola is brought to life with frightening conviction by theatre star McLeavy, who Lazarus believes has a big future ahead of her.

And expect more bloodshed from Lazarus, who is pushing the genre filmmaking barrow. He is the investment manager on a new film Bait 3D, a big-budget Australian movie about a killer shark, being shot in 3D.

“I think you’ll see more and more of it [genre films],” Lazarus said.

The Loved Ones is screening nationally.