“Hounds of Love” Is An Uncomfortable Watch, But An Unforgettable Film



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Posted June 23, 2017 by

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Most films that start out with an attractive, young woman being abducted focus largely on one thing… pushing the boundaries of violence and gore. While the premise itself is terrifying, in large part because it happens so often in reality, directors typically take the abduction and steer it straight into “Torture porn” territory. This often results in something that, while it is shocking and gruesome, is rarely entertaining. First-time, feature director Ben Young avoids falling into the trappings of ultra-violence, in his new film “Hounds of Love”. Opting, instead, to focus on the emotional conflict surrounding (and inhabiting) the three people involved, Young uses the inherent terror of the situation to supply the film’s tension and keeps most of violence off screen.

The movie begins with couple John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth) stalking and abducting a young girl, on her way home from school. Young quickly shows us how psychotic and dangerous this duo is, by letting us witness them kill the girl, dispose of her body, and clean their home in preparation for their next victim. That victim comes to them, shortly after, in the form of Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings).

Vicki is unhappy, due to her parents’ recent separation, and is in trouble both at school and at home. When her mother (Susie Porter) forbids her from attending a neighborhood party, with her boyfriend (Harrison Gilbertson), Vicki decides to ignore her mother’s wishes and sneak out. That is her first poor decision. On her way to the party, she is approached by John and Evelyn, and they offer to sell her some weed to take to the party. At first she declines, but Evelyn persists, and Vicki hops into their car. That is bad decision number two. After some pleasantries, Vicki enters John and Evelyn’s home, and is quickly drugged and chained to the bed that the last girl was strapped to.

Although John and Evelyn seem methodical in their process, all is not well between them. Evelyn is desperately trying to regain custody of her children from a past relationship, and has harbored fears that John abused them. John, while appearing evil and terrifying in his own home, is bullied by his boss and looked down on by his neighbors. Vicki quickly realizes that there are problems between the two of them, and that those problems may be her only hope for escape.

All three actors give terrific performances. Ashleigh Cummings is incredible as both a scared, beaten captive and a determined survivor, and Curry is repulsive, and simultaneously charismatic. It is Emma Booth, though, who’s performance captivated me. She perfectly portrays her character’s tortured psyche. Being caught between a fear of, and need for, John and a desire to be a mother to her own children, Evelyn is easily the most intriguing character in the film.

Impressively, for this being his debut film, Young makes a lot of right choices and rarely lets his film lag. The tension is built quickly, and sustained throughout the entire 108 minute run time. By choosing to forgo extended scenes of torture, and focusing instead on the dynamic between the attackers and their victim, he succeeds in crafting a harrowing character study and a taught thriller, and he will certainly be on my list of directors to look out for in the future.




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