Hounds of Love, the latest horror export from Australia, is unpleasant to a fault.
It could be argued that writer/director Ben Young looks terror in the face by presenting horrible crimes (such as rape, kidnappings, and domestic abuse) in a way that’s unembellished and raw. However, the film knows no boundaries which is where Young, a budding storyteller, missteps. The gratuitous film crosses a line between authenticity and tastelessness that made this viewer nauseous.
John and Evelyn (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth) cruise around Perth, Australia stalking schoolgirls to lure. They’re a seemingly ordinary couple, and their hospitality is convincing enough to fool young women. Their latest victim, Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), is vulnerable after a blow-up with her mother and is enticed by the couple when she’s offered “good weed”. Once the charade is revealed and Vicki is screaming at the top of her lungs, she’s tied to a bed where she screams and cries some more.
For Evelyn, Vicki is different. The audience soon figures out that the kidnapped students are not the only ones in trouble – this accomplice is too. Evelyn is manipulated and abused by John, and feels betrayed when John uses their plan to feed his sexual desires. Before John’s fetish takes over, Evelyn sympathizes with Vicki, and the two form a relationship.
I commend the filmmaker for his characterization, making me realize that maybe Ben Young is more suited as a writer (with an experienced mentor by his side) rather than a leery director. These characters, even when they’re at their most intimidating, are defenceless with comprehendible feelings. Their motives could use more detail, but Young’s writing is still emotionally identifiable and packs decent feministic values (when the film is catching its breath).
Hounds of Love is too violent, sadistic, and offensive to be enjoyed, but I wonder what this relentless horror would’ve been like in the hands of an innovative filmmaker who understands that “less is more”. With more experience, Ben Young may turn out to be that very filmmaker, but he’s got a lot of taming ahead of him.
Hounds of Love is now playing at Toronto’s Carlton Cinema, and is also available on iTunes/VOD.
The film hits London, Ontario on Friday, May 19.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie