DIRECTOR: Ben Young
WRITER: Ben Young
Damian De Montemas
Vicki Maloney is a seventeen-year-old high school student who decides to sneak out of her house to attend a friends party. Little does Vicki realise that this predatory and sadistic couple are out driving around looking for their next victim. Offering to supply her weed and a lift to the highway, they drug and hold her captive. Vicki soon realises that she'll have to drive a wedge between this cruel and evil couple if she ever plans on surviving her ordeal.
Here in Australia, we have our fair share of monstrous serial killers. One such couple David and Catherine Birnie are well known for being two of the worst in our short and dark history. While Australia is filled with hot weather and gorgeous beaches, we still have a seedy underbelly. While the two never racked up a significant death toll, they still had murdered four women aged between fifteen and thirty-one. The crimes were known as the Moorhouse Murders.
Hounds Of Love is loosely based on these crimes. The film details the events of the last murder and their final victim who managed to escape the evil couple. While the movie indeed takes liberties with the case and story, this is to add some emotional weight to the movie. We also have the parallel story of the victim's parents that are trying to find their missing daughter. The two stories come crashing together in the end. Don't be fooled though, this is one incredibly dark story.
Back in 2011, there was an Australian movie released called Snowtown. It was based on the 'Bodies in the Barrel' murders which happened in South Australia. It had this realism to it. Using mostly unknown actors in the lead roles was a stroke of genius. Sean Byrne's 'The Loved Ones' was a brutal yet colourful little horror film that was about obsession and revenge. Hounds Of Love feels like a mix of those two brilliant films and can now sit amongst them as a new classic in the Australian horror genre.
The movie takes no time at all in getting into these horrible events. We see a young teenage girl jump into a car in the mid-eighties, and we suddenly cut to a shot where we see a dark room that looks like the windows have been blacked out, and a woman is cleaning up bloody tissues. This is only the beginning. Over the next hour and forty minutes, we witness some pretty heinous stuff. To call Hounds Of Love, an enjoyable experience would be a lie. This wants to show the worst of humanity, and it succeeds. This gets under your skin and will stay there for a lot of viewers.
Once Hounds Of Love had finished, I actually felt emotionally drained. Just like I did with Snowtown. The movies aren't grotesque in their display of gore or violence. It's just being repeatedly put in a situation where things just keep escalating, and we get no real relief. Both situations were based on actual events and being so close to home make the situation even more horrific and heartbreaking. Both movies also have this realism to them. This isn't violence that is glamorised, this is ugly and terrifying.
One element that I loved about Hounds Of Love was the production design. Being set in 1986, I was watching closely to see how this little Australian horror movie handled all of the production design closely and they did that incredibly well. Witnessing those old eighties/nineties Telstra phone boxes, the classic model cars and even the design inside the houses brought back so many nice memories of when I was growing up. I knew and remembered all those things. I was in love with how this film looked. Even the soundtrack catered to the time.
Now we come to these performances. Come AACTA time, I can see all four principal actors getting award nominations or win. Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings are standouts. Emma Booth as the evil and vulnerable Evelyn who goes along with her husband's sadistic plans all because she feels threatened and is jealous and wanting attention should secure her the best actress. Ashleigh Cummings is Vicki. She is the tortured young high school student, and her acting is brave. The things she has to go through are tough to watch, and she makes us feel for her character every step of the way. A stunning performance.
Stephen Curry will probably get the most award recognition here in Australia due to him being known mainly for comedic roles, and here he is doing a John Jarrett and delivering a dark and twisted turn as John. By the end of this film, I hated him, and he succeeded in giving us a cold and calculating killer. Susie Porter who is one of the most underrated Australian actresses is great in a smaller role as Vicki's mother. She has a few devastating scenes, and I felt for her. The scene where she is on the street screaming for her daughter devastated me. Another excellent turn. How hasn't this woman been scooped up by Hollywood?
Lastly, when it comes to the movie being scary, this isn't about jump scares or loud noises. Hounds Of Love is incredibly intense. This movie has a few extremely nerve-wracking sequences where we think our young high schooler might escape and these scenes had me on the edge of my seat. The film will surely have a lot of people biting their fingernails. I think more often than not, I was made to feel really uncomfortable during most of this movie. A very taut piece of debut filmmaking.
DEATH TOLL: 2
BLOOD AND GORE:
- The aftermath of a school girl's murder. Blood tissues.
- A teenage girl is drugged and chained up.
- A teenage girl defecates to prevent herself from being raped.
- A woman is beaten.
- A dog is kicked and stomped to death.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.
Ben Young can now join Justin Kurzel, Sean Byrne, and Greg McLean because he has crafted a horrific yet stunning piece of Australian horror cinema. With a debut movie like this, I can't wait to see what he does after the brilliant Hounds Of Love. The film is gorgeously filmed, has a great soundtrack, is excellently acted, incredibly intense and extremely disturbing at times. Hounds Of Love now joins a long list of fantastic pieces of genre cinema that are making their way out of Australia. Just another film that proves we are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to horror.