Movie Review – Hounds of Love

If you can stomach it, the trip to hell that is Hounds of Love is another chilling entry in the Australian suburban nightmare, and an impressive calling card for local filmmaker Ben Young.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

In 1980’s Perth, suburbanites go about their lives blissfully unaware that teenage girls are being abducted, sexually abused and murdered by a deeply disturbed married couple, Evelyn (Emma Booth) and John White (Stephen Curry). 17-year-old Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) is not coping well with her parents’ divorce, and one night sneaks out to head to a party. On the way she encounters the Whites, and in an innocent lapse in judgement is lured back to their, only to find herself chained to a bed and the next victim of the psychotic couple’s sick tradition.

Australian cinema tends to gravitate towards certain genres in which it finds expertise and innovation – primarily horror and familial melodrama. With local talent Ben Young’s thrilling directorial debut Hounds of Love, we’re about to become famed for another one – thrillers centred around kidnapping and hostage-holding. Being released so close to the similarly-themed Berlin Syndrome naturally draws immediate comparisons, but never to its detriment; Young’s film is unique enough and equally excellent in its own right.

Set quite literally in our own backyard, it’s chilling to think that a killer couple like this could be lurking right next door, and given their typical bogan demeanour, it’s highly believable too. Young ups the unpleasant levels to an uneasy extreme, and yet the film rarely feels gratuitous; much of the violence happens just out of frame, and we’re only given hints of the horrific sexual abuse, leaving it largely up to our imagination to conjure up the disturbing images. It’s effectively uncomfortable.

Unlike Teresa Palmer, who was given a more complex love-hate relationship with her tormentor in Berlin Syndrome, Ashleigh Cummings’ Vicki is a more straightforward captive, simply (and naturally) terrified to be held against her will. Fortunately, she’s an excellent scream queen, and is granted depth through her rocky relationship with her divorced parents, particularly her mother (a small but memorable part for Susie Porter).

A seedily-moustached Stephen Curry is detestably monstrous as John; his typically comedic acting sensibility turned on its ear in an intimidating turn as the chief perpetrator. Calm on the surface but capable of truly heinous things, he brings to mind Snowtown’s John Bunting. He’s the scene-stealer, but it’s Emma Booth in the most rewarding role as his madly-in-love but psychologically tormented and conflicted wife Evelyn. She’s massively layered, so crazy for John’s affection and desperate for children that she obeys his every twisted command, but simultaneously can’t escape her sympathy for Vicki, jealousy and contempt of John’s attraction to the younger girl. Booth is terrific at balancing all of this, and her arc is satisfying to watch unfold.

Granted, it can’t help but feel like it’s travelling along the lines of most movies about captors and captives at times, but Hounds of Love is among the genre’s most macabre. It’s frequently tense and unrelenting right up to (and especially in) its squirm-worthy finale. Ben Young knows how to make audiences dig their fingers into their armrests; Hollywood will no doubt know it soon too.

Hounds of Love is available in Australian cinemas from June 1st 

Image courtesy of Label Distribution

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Revelation Film Festival -Get Your Shorts On!

Revelation Film Festival crowd-pleaser Get Your Shorts On! came to town last week. Here’s the lowdown on the best of the best in short filmmaking in WA right now.

Josip Knezevic

Get Your Shorts On! encompasses the very best of what Perth has to offer in short films, and this year eight spectacular productions screened at Luna Leederville to showcase the creativity and skill of our local filmmakers. Of these, there were three standouts that I’d like to single out for Perth’s most promising talent.

3. Normal People
Producer:
Jenna Dimitrijevic
Director:
James Pontifex

Contrary to its title, this RAW Nerve funded short is anything but normal. An unfortunate party goer misreads an invitation and rocks up dressed as a panda only to discovers she is the only one in a costume. That is until she meets a man in a penguin suit…

Normal People is certainly an original piece of filmmaking, with some nice moments of quirky humour. My only disappointment is that it only runs for 7 minutes. Given more time on screen, I think these two loveable characters could have been fleshed out even more. Additionally, the concept is loaded with comedic opportunity that could have been further explored in a longer version… So the only question is, when do we get to see the feature film, guys?

2. Outline
Producer: Jess Parker
Director: Cody Cameron-Brown

Successfully funded by Pozible, Outline tells the story of a grieving young artist who seeks redemption in an unlikely place. She uses her craft to recreate her fallen friend in remembrance of her spirit and by the end of the film, you truly get the sense that this was an incredibly personal film for its creators. A simple idea that works marvelously on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed this 6-minute short with its beautiful artistry and emotional touches. Clearly others are being won over as well; the short was selected to appear in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

1. The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius
Producer: Lauren Elliott
Director: Matt Lovkis & Henry Inglis

Hot damn, this was awesome! The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius is my favourite from this year’s Get Your Shorts On! selection. Yes, on a technical level, this 3-minute animation is fantastically well crafted, but what puts this project in first place is it’s success as a musical. Its catchy beats are filled with ridiculously self-aware, funny lyrics; on my way out of the screening I could still hear the addictive songs in my head. With a joyous colour palette and eye-catching transitions, this short and sweet animation is a must watch!