Hounds of Love Review: Character First

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So far, the 2017 indie scene will undoubtedly go down for the number of hyper-realistic, artistic horror films/thrillers that feature a simple but strongly emoted character arc. This new wave has left your routine torture porn flicks on the cutting room floor entirely, replaced with better, lower budget films that derive some meaning out of the torture. Is it a result of our current political climate that filmmakers are less interested in giggling at over-the-top bone crushing and more interested in survival in the face of extreme adversity? It’s telling that Hounds of Love is really a film about women trying to gain some control in their lives, a fact that gives it more emotional heft than just your routine psychotic creep show.

Set in 1980s Perth, Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) is your average teenager. Angst ridden by her parents’ divorce, seemingly entirely executed by her mother (Susie Porter), for which she receives mountains of not-so-passive-aggressive blame, Vicki sneaks out one night to go to a party. She’s courted on the way by what appears to be a normal couple, Evelyn (Emma Booth) and John (Stephen Curry), offering to drive her a little closer to the party. Next thing she knows, her vision is blurring and the couple is chaining her to a bed post. Director Ben Young, for his feature film debut, lets the camera linger on the horrors, but not just for kicks, to help show the routine existence of the film’s true star: Evelyn.

Through her capture, Vicki sees the cracks in Evelyn and John’s marriage. The film sets them up as a fairly standard couple, besides the whole kidnapping thing. At first, they lightly bicker, have make-up sex, and go about their business as if nothing unusual is happening in the other room. But Vicki is just an innocent, though forced bystander in view of a much larger problem. As John gets frustrated with his wife, and his temptation to take advantage of Vicki grows, it’s Evelyn, with Booth fully behind her rousing, haunting performance, who has the power to change something. Young’s script is full of obstacles that make her journey murkier as the film goes, keeping the tension high throughout.

As the rare horror-thriller with a tight focus on character, Hounds of Love manages to feel fresh even in an ocean of well-filmed horror indies. Young is clearly a writer-director to watch, if not just for his filmmaking prowess for his commitment to telling a story about people who’s voices deserve to be heard. Just one that is insanely difficult to watch and will leave you squirming in your seat. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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