You are here

Hounds of Love (2017)

rooz Hounds of Love (2017) image

Starring Ashleigh Cummings, Emma Booth, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damien de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson
Written and directed by Ben Young
Screened at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival
Abduction movies that use sexual assault as a means of attempting to inflict terror and horror upon their viewers, for the most part, really don’t do anything for me. It’s not that I think they’re necessarily bad, it’s just that I find the subject matter to be distasteful and I derive no joy from watching films like I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on The Left . Often, these films go so over-the-top in terms of their 3rd act revenge ( example ) that I begin to find myself believing that everyone involved is a horrible person, regardless of their status in the first two acts. That, however, is where Ben Young’s Hounds of Love separates itself from the pack by remaining grounded in reality, offering forth a story that is heartbreaking, incredibly difficult, emotionally exhausting, and unrelentingly tense.
The story follows young Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), who is a typical rebellious teenager in the 1980’s Australia. One night, she sneaks out of her mother’s house to attend a party. Along the way, Evelyn (Emma Booth) and John (Stephen Curry) pull up in a car beside her and offer to sell her some pot, which Vicki is clearly interested in. Manipulated cleverly into getting into the car and going to their house, Vicki is then drugged, tied up, and held captive by Evelyn and John, who seem to get some sort of sick sexual thrill out of their escapades. As she watches the dynamics between the two, Vicki realizes that their relationship is not as strong as she originally thought and her only way to survive is to pit her two captors against each other.
There are several things that make this film stand out. First is the aforementioned reality of the situation. There isn’t some grand scene where Vicki breaks free and decides to arm herself and take on Evelyn and John. There is no glorious explosion of violence that allows the audience to cheer the prey becoming the predator. Such a series of events wouldn’t make sense in this film and they’re wonderfully avoided.
Second is how brilliantly each of the leads plays their role. Ashleigh Cummings is magnificent in the role of Vicki and watching her slide from terror to desperation to a near-total loss of dignity to apathy is marvelous yet heartbreaking (she spoke about that performance here ). Stephen Curry as John is a sociopath that should inspire fear yet also elicit a strange sense of pity, as though he’s a pathetic creature that needs some form of rehabilitation in order to fix himself. But it’s really Emma Booth as Evelyn who shines in this film. Her character is desperate for the love and attention of John but she is fully aware of his manipulations. However, she simply doesn’t want to accept this and chooses to willfully ignore it as much as possible. But that inner struggle is not lost and it flashes across her face constantly, pain, grief, sadness, and loneliness never absent from her eyes.
Third, the production is wonderful. Beautifully shot and expertly edited, Hounds of Love doesn’t waste time but it also doesn’t feel like it’s moving fast. Furthermore, for as intense as the subject matter and the performances are, much of the terror is off-screen. When it comes to sexual assault, the act is so monstrous that showing it doesn’t add anything. In fact, it can detract from the impact of such a scene, which is why I personally feel like writer/director Ben Young made the brilliant choice to avoid showing too much. It would cheapen the horror.
Now, with all that being said, the film is, as mentioned above, emotionally exhausting, at times too much so. I had to walk away from the film on a few occasions simply because I felt drained and needed to catch my breath. It’s one of those films that, upon completion, you’ll either need a comedy or something lighthearted and fun to dive into or you’ll have to allow yourself a couple of hours to unwind while thinking about what you’ve seen. This isn’t a movie you watch when you’re bored and want to kill some time. This is something you watch with full attention, giving it the respect it deserves.
For those of you who want your kidnap thrillers to build up to some explosive climax, you won’t find that here. If you want gore and viscera, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a film that will leave you unsettled and will challenge your view on what it means to be a villain and what it means to be a victim, Hounds of Love offers just that and more. Film

Related posts

Leave a Comment