Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hounds of Love : Review

It takes a special kind of twisted mind to taint Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin. A kind of perversion even, to use it in a chillingly memorable kidnapping scene, one so unique, it's bound to stay with you for far too long of a time. 

Perth-born director Ben Young greets us in his directorial debut with the sick and horrifying Hounds of Love, an Aussie thriller/horror/I-can't-believe-this-is-happening flick. Set in Young's hometown in 1987, Stephen Curry and Emma Booth play a married couple who are actually a pair of murderous psychopaths, praying on teenage girls. Doing some research, I later found out that the idea for Hounds of Love is loosely based on the lives of real-life murderers David and Catherine Birnie. That sliver of truth makes the film so much more disturbing, clinging to you and engulfing you long after the credits roll. 

On the surface, this film is absolutely a horror, but upon further inspection it's a tragic character analysis; touching on domestic abuse, subjugation of females, and the sick sense of attachment that comes with living with an oppressive and domineering man. 

The story becomes a love triangle, one between Curry and Booth's characters, John and Evelyn White, and the girl they take captive, Vicki. Evelyn and John have a strained relationship, one that's lasted since they were teenagers. During a brief split they had in the past, Evelyn had two children, who now live with her ex. John abuses this knowledge and manipulates his wife into thinking that she'll soon be reunited with her kids, as long as she plays along with his sadistic games. He preys on her using the girls they keep hostage, selecting those who are much more attractive and youthful, lowering her already diminished self esteem. John ultimately convinces Evelyn that these perverse and horrific acts will ultimately bring them closer as a couple, and it's the only way they'll stay together. It's during these moments that you feel a strange sense of sympathy for Evelyn, a character that's completely broken, and left as a shell of the mother she once was. Meanwhile, Vicki, having witnessed glimpses of their turbulent relationship, realizes that she'll have to work the two against themselves if she plans to make it out of their little suburban home alive. 

While all of this is happening, Vicki's mother, played by Susie Porter, is having trouble communicating to the police that her daughter is in trouble. With wanted posters of missing girls littering the station, the authorities still seem to be under the impression that Vicki has simply run away, refusing to help her mother out. Her ex husband blames her for leaving them and breaking apart their family, explaining to her that when she left the family to become an "independent woman", she led their daughter astray. The victimizing of women and the system which repeatedly fails women, all goes to show the sad state of the world in the 1980s, and just how far we've at least come today. 

Young masterfully uses other aspects to drive his story home, in particular using subtle elements to make all that's happening seem harrowingly realistic. The fact that the White's torture room has stuffed toys in it, leads you to the dreaded conclusion that this was once the room for Evelyn's children. Vicki's hair when she styles it and Evelyn's high-waisted mom jeans lend your eyes to the realization that these characters belong to a sleepy suburban town. These everyday aspects are combined with the the fact that Young decided that most of the torture and killing happens off-camera. This leaves the viewer feeling extremely anxious, never knowing what's next in a situation that seems downright plausible enough to happen in real life. 

All in all, Hounds of Love is a solid film, showcasing stylistic camera elements, combining them with a wonderfully classic psychedelic soundtrack, and wrapping it all up in a disturbing art-horror package, sure to leave you utterly traumatized and appreciative of its storytelling. 


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