You know the highest compliment I can pay this audacious, crazy, gory little thriller?

When I walked out of it, I felt like I was in Austin.

I'm heading to Fantastic Fest next week, and I'm already excited about going.  But my first exposure to the programming and personality of Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival and Colin Geddes is that here's another place to call home.  Here, again, is one of us.

That's why I go to festivals in the first place.  Where else are you going to be around people who are so engaged in the conversation about film that two old friends can end up yelling at each other over the relative merits (or lack thereof) of a documentary made for $385?  Or where else would you pass strangers on the street who hear you mention the festival, stop, then turn back just so they can offer you a quick list of the three best things they've seen? 

That's the atmosphere at a good festival, and being on foot for much of this week, that's the environment I've been immersed in pretty much all day every day.  Every town is different, of course, with my favorite being Austin for all sorts of reasons.  I just plain feel at home there, and dealing with Colin Geddes and all the great volunteers and festival folks here, and enjoying the movies with the crowds at the Ryerson... all of it got me in exactly the right mood for next week, and even more importantly, now that I know this place feels this much like home, I'm absolutely coming back next year.

[more after the jump]

And like I said, "The Loved Ones" is a big part of that.

"The Loved Ones" rocked the Ryerson, evidently.  That should not be a surprise.  The film is ingeniously directed, but it's never showy.  Sean Byrne makes his writing and directing feature debut here, and he has put together a really aggressive movie, very tight, very well-constructed.  There are nice reveals all the way through, and he written strong roles for the whole cast, not just one or two leads.  Everyone's put on the spot at some point, and everyone works.  I hesitate to recommend the film across the board, though, because it gets really dark and grim in a few places, ugly violent.  There's one idea in particular, tied in to the title of the film in a chilling way, that is a very original act of violence, and so vile that I wonder if it's something that has really been done.  If it's Byrne's original invention, someone needs to put him on a watch list.  It's that deranged.

Robin McLeavy is the real reason to see the movie.  Like I said, the whole cast does solid work.  But McLeavy plays Lola, the strange girl who is just a wallflower at school.  At home, she's Daddy's little Princess, and he would do anything to make her happy.  That's all you need to know going in, so as not to ruin anything.  This needs a U.S. distributor who is willing to cut a wild exploitation style trailer to get asses in seats, and if they find one, I wish them well.  "The Loved Ones" is raw horror fun done right.

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