SXSW 2012: Writer/Director Sean Byrne Talks The Loved Ones and More

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One of the more talked about recent indie horror flicks is Sean Byrne’s shockingly clever The Loved Ones, starring Robin McLeavy as Lola (or Princess as she’s affectionately known) and Xavier Samuel as Brent, who finds out why it’s not wise to turn down a demented girl’s prom invitation.

The Loved Ones has been making the festival rounds for some time now (including a recent stop in Austin for the 2012 SXSW Film Festival) but will finally be heading to the big screen this June courtesy of Paramount and the new Tugg system, which allows fans to vote for movies to get played at their local theaters.

Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with first-time filmmaker Byrne about the films that influenced him for The Loved Ones, the art of balancing horror and dark comedy as well as what’s up next for him now that his first feature film is set to hit theaters this summer.

Check out our interview with Byrne below, and make sure to keep it tuned here for more on The Loved Ones closer to the release date!

Dread Central: Can you discuss where the idea of the story for The Loved Ones came about?

Sean Byrne: Well, I was looking at a lot of different low budget feature models to see what hadn’t been explored recently; I had written a few screenplays but nothing was really fitting for a first-time feature. So then I thought about what would happen if you mixed Carrie with The Evil Dead with a ‘cabin in the woods’ kind of horror movie and then built my story around that idea.

I had this one image in my head of a kid dressed up in a tuxedo who is tied to a chair and he’s just sitting in this empty room filled with balloons and he has no idea what is going on. It was that image that got everything going for me, so I just kind of worked backwards from there and that’s where the idea of this desperate girl kidnapping a boy who won’t go to prom with her came about then.

A lot of this story is that sort of psychology; I based this character on a kid in a supermarket who kicks and screams in the middle of the aisle when they can’t get the toy they want and they’ll keep kicking and screaming until they get their way. It says a lot about youth culture today but I never wanted it to go ‘too far’ or then Lola becomes a caricature, not a character.

DC: Since The Loved Ones isn’t what I would call a straight-up horror affair, can you talk more about the challenges of keeping the tone of the material balanced throughout your story?

Sean Byrne: Balancing out all the different tones in The Loved Ones came pretty naturally for me since the horror aspects and the darkly comedic tones really play well together in film usually. Quentin Tarantino is a guy who is the master of balancing violence and comedy and he’s a huge influence on me. But I would definitely agree that the whole high school feel definitely came from being influenced by John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club because I have all those archetypes accounted for in this.

So there are a lot of ‘familiar’ elements in The Loved Ones but that’s the fun of it; just when you’re settling in and thinking this is a story you’ve seen before, that’s when I take the story off the rails and kick things into high gear. That’s the true fun of being a filmmaker- surprising audiences.

DC: Robin is pretty remarkable in this film; where on earth did you discover her?

Sean Byrne: You know, it was incredibly important when we were casting this that our actors could play the characters but not the clichés of who their characters were. You can lose authenticity that way so I still thank the stars above every single day for Robin being a part of the audition process because the minute I saw her- I knew she was Princess.

Princess (or Lola) is someone who can get right up into the audience’s face and keep them in the palm of her hand and Robin has that in spades. She walks a very delicate tightrope without ever sacrificing the fun tone of the film and I think her performance here really raised everyone’s game on this project, including mine.

DC: I’m sure you’re pretty proud of The Loved Ones‘ impressive festival tour over the last year or so now but I would bet that it also feels just as remarkable to see the movie is finally getting its US release very soon.

Sean Byrne: It has been such a long wait for all of us to finally see this movie get released in North America; I think we all always had faith it would happen but it just ended up being a longer process than I think any of really had anticipated when we first started working on this movie in 2009. But it’s pretty exciting for me that The Loved Ones will be in theaters when in general, it costs $30 million to just market and put a mainstream movie on the big screen.

With Tugg, it’s now up to the fans to choose where and when they want to see The Loved Ones and that kind of democratization is pretty cool.

DC: So what does the future hold for you then? Are you planning to continue working in the genre realm then?

Sean Byrne: I am working on a few things right not but I can’t really say too much about what they are; the first one may or may not be a possession film- I still haven’t figured that out yet (laughs). I’m also working on a home invasion thriller too but it definitely won’t be like other home invasion movies you’ve seen before. That’s the great thing about genre films- there are so many twists and turns you can work into a script that the possibilities for great storytelling are endless.

Watch the teaser below, and then sign up at The Loved Ones website to book a screening and invite friends to see one of the most buzzed about horror films of the summer. Those who sign up will be given notice when they can begin to set their June screenings.

SXSW 2012: Writer/Director Sean Byrne Talks The Loved Ones and More

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