Hounds Of Love (18)
In 1987 Perth, Austraila, John and Evelyn White. are a pair of serial killers who target teenage girls. One night, Vicki Maloney, who impetuously sneaks out of the house for a forbidden party, is lured by the pair into their clutches. Now paying dearly for her naivety, Vicki must endure a horrific nightmare of confinement and torture at the hands of this depraved pair. Against these murderers, Vicki’s only chance of survival is a mix of subterfuge, cunning, and mind games while her estranged parents and her boyfriend desperately try to learn what has happened and what can be done to find her. Meanwhile, the Whites have growing problems of their own, which could provide the only hope Vicki could have to survive… Watched this in Pyramid.
Perth-born writer/director Ben Young launches his feature film career like a bat out of hell with the bone-chilling horror-thriller Hounds of Love, a savagely intense and frightening tale of suburban sickos that is hands down the scariest movie you’ll see this year. By contrast, it makes the recent, racially charged water cooler horror hit Get Out look like something you watch with grandma after tea and scones.
Australian cinema’s new enfant terrible (soon, inevitably, to be snapped up by Hollywood) cut his teeth on music videos, including a data-link-name=”in body link”>zombie-infused love story for the John Butler Trio. Hounds of Love is a tough watch but Young’s direction is not gratuitous – given how high impact the film is, it’s surprising how much of the action takes place off-frame.
Stephen Curry and Emma Booth play a married pair of serial killer psychopaths in Perth, circa the late 80s, who target teenage school girls. Comparisons have been made to real-life murderers David and Catherine Birnie, in the same way Ivan Milat was associated with Wolf Creek. Hounds of Love is Snowtown meets Natural Born Killers, with a scuzzy lounge room vibe and a foul and fetid psychological energy that clings like an unshakeable dream or a bad rash
Conversation will naturally gravitate around the film’s horrific elements but the director has serious questions on the mind. Do female murderers kill for a different reason than men? What are the best tools for horror film-makers to explore the psychology of destructive relationships? And, will we ever look at Stephen Curry the same way again?
Hounds of Love is about the subjugation of women and male-inflicted abuse, from brutal violence involving strangers to psychological domination from long-term partners. But Young has put a fresh and meaningful spin on a genre often preoccupied with cheap thrills. I left the cinema clutching the walls and breathing deeply, wondering whether the guy should be locked up or declared some kind of genius.
I decided on the latter. In sheer head-turning, artery-choking, disbelief-inducing style and chutzpah, this is a debut comparable to Snowtown (for Justin Kurzel) or The Babadook (for Jennifer Kent). But any recommendation to see Hounds of Love needs to come with some caveats; it’s not for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart.
The opening shot reveals an after school netball match in slow motion; so slow it takes a few moments to realise the players are actually moving. The camera capturing this zips along at a good pace, moving left to right in a tracking shot, meaning one side of the image is in constant motion and the other is almost still: an unusual and highly interesting effect. In this scene Young is reluctant to reveal the faces of the two sickos waiting in a nearby car. Soon we’ll be up close and personal, hankering for distance.
personal, hankering for distance.
Much of the drama takes place in John (Curry) and Evelyn’s (Booth) suburban home. They pick teenager Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) up off the street, luring her with the prospect of weed. Then they spike her drink and chain her to a bed. Vicki tries to escape, while slowly and inadvertently learning more about the people holding her captive. Susie Porter (also currently on Australian screens in Don’t Tell) appears in a small but memorable performance as her mother, Maggie.
Curry, perhaps best known as kind-hearted simpleton Dale Kerrigan from The Castle, embodies another blue-collar character who is, shall we say, differently wired to the young man who lived in a home next to the airport. The actor plays shockingly against type. Words like “breaking bad” do not begin to cut it: RIP Dale, you were a sweet kid.
Curry’s performance may be the most transformative but that is not to say it is the best or even the most arresting. Cummings is note-perfect in a difficult role involving considerable wreathing, squirming and several sorts of stains. And Booth, what a performance – what an enthralling combination of perversity and vulnerability, cooked up with a devil’s grin.
Young’s music video sensibilities are present in his highly disciplined visual rigor (as if paranoid audiences might tune out at any moment) and in the songs themselves. Expect tracks such as the Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin and Cat Stevens’ Lady D’Arbanville to be permanently, if not ruined, then certainly irreparably baggage-riddled, in the same way many of us can longer hear Air Supply’s I’m All Out of Love without picturing a drugged-up data-link-name=”in body link”>Ben Mendelsohn on the couch staring into space in Animal Kingdom.
Hounds of Love is ultimately kind of cathartic, for reasons that – if explained here – would almost certainly constitute some kind of a spoiler. For horror aficionados it is unmissable. For others, so intense it might be unwatchable. And, in a certain sense, the film is also uncontrollable: once this thing starts bouncing around your brain, good luck getting it out.
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