Film Review: Hounds of LoveTension escalates in this spare Australian thriller.
Writer-director Ben Young is out of the gate in a fine fashion with debut feature Hounds of Love, in which a teenage girl living in suburban Australia is abducted by one seriously disturbed couple. With torture and death looming, Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) must figure out a way to turn her captors—sadistic John (Aussie comedian Stephen Curry) and damaged Evelyn (Emma Booth)—against each other and somehow enact her escape.
Those with weak constitutions need not apply. It’s not that Hounds of Love ascribes to a gory, torture-porn-esque style of horror filmmaking. In fact, the opposite, as Young has most of the particularly brutal violence take place off-screen, either just outside the frame or in between scenes. As the audience, we don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we know it’s bad, and our imaginations (willingly or not) fill in the rest. The result is 108 minutes of relentless, nail-biting tension that keeps audiences glued to the screen despite Hounds of Love’s limited scope; a subplot involving Vicki’s parents and her boyfriend occasionally gets us outside, but for the most part we’re just as trapped in John and Evelyn’s dim, cramped house as Vicki is.
The scenes that stick out aren’t the violent ones, but the ones that presage violence, as in the scene where Vicki realizes this seemingly normal duo from whom she’s accepted a ride and some pot have roofied her. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever able to listen to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” again. There’s not an ounce of fat on Hounds of Love, and we never see any more than we need to. No spoilers as to how the movie ends, but suffice to say after a solid 90 minutes of escalating dread, the climax of Vicki’s story hits like that first huge gasp after holding your breath.
Curry and Booth are brilliant as Hounds of Love’s twisted, co-dependent central pair. And Cummings delivers a riveting performance as Vicki, blending hard-nosed determination to outwit her captors and escape with her life with, at times, a sense of defeated hopelessness. A cookie-cutter victim this ain’t.
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