During the summer of 1987, women are disappearing from the streets of Perth at the hands of serial killer couple John and Evelyn White. Vicki Maloney, an intelligent and charismatic teenager, is spending the weekend at her mother’s house in outer suburbia. After friction between mother and daughter escalates, Vicki defiantly sneaks out to attend a party. En route she is lured into the car of seemingly trustworthy couple. Vicki soon finds herself held captive where she is forced into a dark world of violence and domination. With no way to escape and her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she’s to survive her ordeal.
His feature film debut, director Ben Young masterfully executes tension and stakes while developing the location into a viable character. The bleak, sun kissed streets of Perth are bare and lifeless. From the opening shot we’re introduced to a grimy, atmospheric story of grounded realism. Scenes so gruesome and visceral but yet raw and authentic. Never acting as ‘torture porn’, Hounds of Love prioritizes human emotion and fear. Young lets the camera do the storytelling as it sits from afar as if it’s a spectator. The subject material itself is nothing new but the way it’s told is fresh and innovative.
Featuring three performances of power and persistence, Hounds of Love tells the story from multiple perspectives as we explore their psych. All of the leads are damaged inside one way or another, whether it’s taking innocent teens captive to exert your power or allowing your significant other to do it while you watch. Stephen Curry plays John, the sick and sadistic captor with OCD who’s unnerving and leaves a lasting impression even as the credits roll.
His partner Evelyn played by Emma Booth is given the most range as she is forced to stand on the sidelines while John inflicts pain. A conflicted Evelyn gets sympathy from Vicki when it’s clear she is being tormented and she can’t escape. Evelyn is defeated and has no reason to continue on.
Vicki, played by Ashleigh Cummings holds her own as the teenager who is abducted by the couple. Her performance is so convincing that at times it feels wrong to continue to watch the tragic events that are about to occur. Her bloodcurdling screams echo in your head minutes after the scene is over. Without the performance from the leads, the material wouldn’t resonate with the viewer and would come off as ‘just another abduction horror film’.
Hounds of Love benefits from taut storytelling and heart pounding moments of profound terror. The film never cops out, putting us in the mind of the captors and the captive. As the story progresses we’re invested though the outcome we hope for isn’t guaranteed. Aware of its genre, the film provides us with as much style as it does substance. From the sinister electronic score to the portrait of the shady Australian suburban life. The film goes from a brutal horror to a character study thanks to Curry, Booth, and Cummings. For viewers that are willing to stick it out, they’ll be rewarded with a captivating film that makes the most of its 108 minute runtime.