Hounds of Love punches you in the face. Then screams at you – daring you to cry.
Vicki Maloney (Ashleigh Cummings) is like a lot of teens. After the collateral damage from her parents’ recent divorce, she is having a hard time adjusting to the new reality that is her life. Her school grades are down and the relationship between her and her parents is strained. When she picks the wrong night to sneak out, she is abducted by the monstrous couple of John & Evelyn.
Hiding in plain sight, this horrific couple is camouflaged by the banal surroundings of 1987 Perth, Australia. Their cave is a suburban home that looks like it was stamped out of an assembly line with every other one on the block, while their bait is charm and opportunity. And who wouldn’t trust a pleasant, seemingly average couple that offered them a ride? Or a little weed?
Once Vicki is ensnared in their web of deceit, the sinister couple promptly chain her to a bed in a padlocked room where she is beaten and raped. All Vicki has is her wits to expose and exploit the cracks in Evelyn & John’s relationship. This isn’t one of those movies where the heroine turns the tables and kicks everybody’s ass before doing a slow walk away as the house blows up behind her. Instead, she plants seeds of doubt and insecurity while hoping for an opening to make her escape.
Stephen Curry – better known for his work as a comedic actor – is chilling as John. His meticulous methods are what has kept them free from being caught. How many victims have there been? We get a glimpse that he’s been doing it for a while, but no definitive numbers. As stoic and constant as John’s demeanor is, his wife Evelyn is equally as emotional.
Emma Booth’s Evelyn is both monster and victim. She wants nothing more than to make her man happy, but has flashes of doubt for her husband’s plans. She yearns to care for something or somebody. She has a dog and we hear mention of her kids, but they are not seen. John dangles the carrot of having kids in front of her anytime a riff is formed between them as a means to control his unstable wife. Booth is so strong in her portrayal that you find yourself wishing better things for her, even as you ultimately know she needs to be taken out by a rabid dingo.
Ben Young’s directorial debut is a movie that sticks with you. It’s like the smoky aroma that clings to your clothes after visiting a bar-b-cue. There have been some reports of people walking out and I can’t blame them to some extent. Hounds Of Love is a tough one to watch if you have even half of a soul, proving uncomfortable even though we do not see a majority of the heinous acts.
A couple of the minor gripes I had was the extreme screaming coupled with the apparent lack of soundproofing in the room. There is even a boarded up window that appears to have gaps. Seems to me that a neighbor might be able to hear the adjacent wailing and would eventually call the police. Also, while Vicki’s mother (Susie Porter) seems to be doing everything she can to find her daughter, her father (Damian De Montemas) just appears to be along for the ride, his lack of urgency was an issue me personally.
Tiny quibbles aside, between the sticky, sweaty heat of summer (Christmas in Australia) and the pulsing soundtrack, Hounds Of Love tightens its grip on the victim and the audience, forcing a gasp of relief once the end credits roll.
I’m going to go cry now. My face hurts.
Starring Stephen Curry, Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings
Written by Ben Young
Directed by Ben Young