Hounds of Love Review
There has been a long and violent history of blood lusting crazed couples who have been young, in love and have killed people; ranging from Bonnie and Clyde (1967) to Badlands (1973) through to Natural Born Killers (1994). There seems to be morbid fascination in how these couples operate and gain pleasure from sadistic acts of murder and torture. Hounds of Love is the latest entry into this twisted hall of fame, with the film following a pair of serial killers who stalk the roads of Perth, Australia preying on young, vulnerable teenagers. What makes this film so impactful is the surreal dreamlike quality that it is filmed in, which not only creates a deeply unsettling atmosphere but adds to the horror within its dark subject matter. Simply put, Hounds of Love is not for the easily triggered or the very sensitive, it is a film which will chill you to your very soul and will haunt you long after the credits have rolled.
The film opens with slow motion shots of young adolescent girls playing netball in the glorious sunshine, and already you feel unsettled. The opening shots of the prowling camera, slowly lurking around the netball court, are very reminiscent of the opening scene and the shower scene in De Palma's Carrie. We see a young woman leave after her match has finished, walking the lonely streets of Perth, unaware that a car is following her. Inside the vehicle is John and Evelyn White (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth), a deranged couple who target teenager girls.
The unnamed woman is abducted by the couple and taken back to their home. We don’t see the rape or the murder in any graphic detail, but we see its brutal aftermath as Evelyn cleans up the bedroom, disposing of a bloody sex toy, bloody tissues and a coat hanger. Young rather cleverly, allows our imagination to fill in the gaps, and the less we see on screen, the more disturbing it seems.
Soon the couple require a new victim and one night they stumble upon Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) who has sneaked off to a party. Vicki is dealing with the divorce of her parents, (Susie Porter and Damian De Montemas) and as a result has a very strained relationship with her mother. Vicki quickly finds herself in an unimaginable situation, where she is chained to a bed, gagged and at the mercy of the hands of her abductors. Salvation may come in the form of getting a secret message to her boyfriend (Harrison Gilbertson) or there’s the other possibility of befriending Evelyn. But with tension growing between the couple regarding John’s obsession with Vicki, it may be too late for the young woman.
Young (who wrote the script) draws inspiration from two cases of serial killer sprees that took place during his time growing up in Perth. He captures the hysteria of the ‘stranger danger’ moral panic that was spreading throughout the eighties, using slow motion shots of life in the neighbourhood where the film largely takes place to create a chilling thought, the killers are almost always your next door neighbour. Aside from slow panning movements and zoom outs, the camera is very still and static, a passive onlooker to the monstrous depraved acts that we witness, perhaps indicating that we as a society have become all too complicit with murder and violence. Young may also be suggesting that we have become numb, immobile bystanders, and in a way we have become accomplices to the crime, due to our silence.
The film’s three main actors all give excellent performances, especially Emma Booth. She presents Evelyn as a tortured soul who is trying to quash her pain by submitting to her boyfriend and going along with him, as if love has somehow made her blind. It is not a very glamorous role, and her downtrodden appearance is very reminiscent of Charlize Theron in Monster (2003). We can very clearly see the amount of preparation it must have taken in order to get into the mindset of this troubled woman. She is disturbing in her scenes yet sympathetic and we are unsure just what she will do next, which perhaps makes her more of a threat than John is. This is very much Booth’s moment to shine, and she doesn’t disappoint.
Some will struggle to stomach the film, critical responses have been divided with many either loving the film or hating it. It’s not an easy watch, but it is crafted in such a way that makes it almost impossible to look away.
Special Edition Contents - A little sparse but still interesting and entertaining enough.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 5.1 audio Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Interviews with actors Stephen Curry, Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings
Behind the Scenes featurette
Two short films from Hounds of Love director Ben Young including Something Fishy (2010) and Bush Basher (2011)
John Butler Trio “Only One” music video, directed by Ben Young
Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options