Director: Ben Young
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 108 Minutes
This is a repost of our review from Tribeca 2017. Hounds of Love opens in theaters tomorrow.
From its ominous, yet beautifully shot opening – a super-slow-motion tracking shot of girls playing on a playground – it’s quickly evident that we’re in for an intense experience with Ben Young’s feature debut, Hounds of Love. The camera slowly inches its way around the girls, shooting them from torso down, allowing us to easily see that, to the nondescript car parked nearby, these women are faceless objects of desire and anything but safe.
Moments later we see this car is occupied by an innocent enough looking couple, played by Emma Booth and Stephen Curry, who offer one of the girls a ride home before cutting to their fortress of a house where their true murderous intent is revealed. We don’t directly see what happens to this poor soul, but we will return to see the bloody aftermath, which, in many ways, proves to be more disturbing than actually witnessing the horrors that took place.
While the couple is still tending to their latest victim, we’re introduced to Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), a rebellious teenager whose parents’ impending divorce is causing her to act out more than usual. After sneaking out one night, Vicki finds herself being tricked by the couple into going into their home, and she finds herself to be the latest victim. Unlike the others however, Vicki has enough cunning and smarts to figure a way out of her dire situation as she appeals to the wife’s desire to escape to a better life.
Booth’s performance as Evelyn White is pitch perfect, a woman who is blindly complicit in her husband’s indiscretions due to her fear of abandonment. She wishes for a life outside the one she’s in, marked early in the film with her hanging formerly soiled sheets from their last victim on the clothesline and staring longingly up at a plane passing by.
Set in Perth, Australia, in 1987 during Christmas, the film feels constantly muggy and hot, giving all the characters an uncomfortable wetness about them as the heat radiates off the pavement in the quiet suburban neighborhood where the film takes place. Young uses this time and place to accentuate the film’s tone by juxtaposing the Christmas theme with the traumatic events that are unfolding. The abduction of Vicki itself is incredibly shot, looking amazing on screen, but feeling absolutely terrifying at the same time.
To say this is a strong debut for director Ben Young would be an understatement. This impeccably shot, carefully crafted thriller could comfortably sit next to other great Aussie crime films like Animal Kingdom or Snowtown and be held in nearly as high regard.