May 23, 2017 Hounds of Love (Movie Review)
Hounds are typically loyal and affectionate creatures that are skilled trackers and hunters; but the hounds in this film are only interested in the thrill of tracking and hunting, and their loyalty and love only apply to one another. Sadistic serial killer couples that prey on children are nothing new to the real world; much less the world of Horror, but the realism portrayed in this movie gives viewers a deeper, much more raw examination of what victims and their families must endure during these incomprehensibly difficult times. Couples like Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Charlene and Gerald Gallego, and Fred and Rosemary West, are prime examples of the types of monsters that abduct, abuse, torture, and kill children for their own sick pleasures; but never has anyone depicted these types of atrocities with such verisimilitude that allows viewers to become both tormented victim and grieving parent.
Thus comes Hounds of Love, an incredible Australian Crime, Drama, Horror film that received a limited cinema release in the U.S. on May 12th via Gunpowder & Sky, and was produced by Factor 30 Films. It is the exceptional debut feature film written and directed by Ben Young (Something Fishy 2010, Bush Basher 2011).
The film employs a limited, but marvelously talented cast including Emma Booth (Glitch 2015, Gods of Egypt 2016) as the jealous and submissive wife, Evelyn White; Ashleigh Cummings (Tomorrow, When the War Began 2010, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series) as the naïve victim, Vicki Maloney; Stephen Curry (The Castle 1997, Rogue 2007) as the sadistic and domineering husband, John White; Susie Porter (The Monkey’s Mask 2000, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002) as the shocked and grieving mother, Maggie; Damian de Montemas (The Secret Life of Us series, Somersault 2004) as the concerned father, Trevor; and Harrison Gilbertson (Need for Speed 2014, Haunt 2014) as Vicki’s boyfriend, Jason.
Vicki Maloney (Cummings) is a beautiful young girl that is struggling with the separation of her parents and the subsequent abandonment by her mother, whom now has weekend visits with her daughter. One night, after getting dressed up and sneaking out of the house, Vicki is approached by a couple whom offer a ride to their house so she can call a cab. She is hesitant to accept the ride at first, but upon noticing the child’s car seat in the back, her unease settled and she got in. After arriving at the house, Evelyn (Booth) takes on a nurturing and caring role, even offering Vicki a drink or two. Suddenly, things take a turn for the worst, and the nice couple that once offered her a ride, have now revealed their true selves and intentions; and they are the absolute worst kinds of monsters.
Hounds of Love is a graphic and gritty cinematic delineation of the trepidation and evil one young girl faces when she is abducted, drugged, tortured, and held against her will by a psychotic married couple that gets their thrills from sexually abusing, tormenting, and murdering young girls. The film exposes the terrors the victim undergoes and the dangers of escaping, as well as one mother’s plight to receive any assistance from law enforcement; and the desperation and despair of trying to find her daughter on her own.
The acting in this film was both brilliant and believable, as each and every character perfectly embodied their roles. Booth and Curry put on such stellar performances that viewers found it difficult not to hate them with every ounce of their being. There were even moments when Evelyn would provide flashes of humanity and remorse, but that would quickly change when her nurturing nature would turn to jealousy and cruelty. The profiles of the offenders perfectly matched their criminality, which was very much appreciated. Cummings played an awe-inspiring victim that began her traumatic journey with such strength and perseverance; but as the psychological abuse and sexual torture progressed, she reach depths of hopelessness that were sure to break her will to fight.
Cinematographer Michael McDermott (George Jones and the Giant Squid 2011, Mal.com 2011) did an impeccable job of creating a desolate, dreadful nightmare that would have even the bravest viewers wishing they could wake up from it. The filming often highlighted scenes of everyday life almost at a standstill, but which slowly continued to progress; indicating that while life moved on normally outside of the walls of the White home, Vicki and her probing family were trapped in one horrific moment in which time was a luxury that never seemed to move forward. The cinematography effectively immersed viewers into an atmosphere of intense emotions, frighteningly real possibilities, and cruelties beyond comprehension.
The score and soundtrack for this film were just as unnerving and disturbing as its content, and remarkably aided in establishing the horror that was often more implied than actually portrayed. The dialogue is painfully real and raw, making it ideal when characterizing these types of sexual deviants. The special effects were never too much or too little, as they seemed perfectly balanced when it came to illustrating the horror which Young intended to convey. The torture segments relied more on the imaginations of the viewers, and what shocking and repulsive images their brains could conjure.
Hounds of Love is basically a cautionary tale of what happens when children defy their parents because they believe themselves to be adult enough to make reckless and dangerous decisions. Though this movie takes time to build to its mind-blowing conclusion, there is plenty of action to keep viewers entertained along the way.
Overall, Hounds of Love is gripping, uncomfortable to watch, and plays on the ultimate fears and vulnerabilities of both parents and children, which can be attributed to all of its components including directing, acting, filming, special effects, and composing; and which is why CrypticRock gives Hounds of Love 3.5 out of 5 stars.