DIRECTOR: Ben Young STARRING: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson, Steve Turner AUSTRALIA 2017
In his directorial debut, writer-director Ben Young proves with Hounds of Love that he knows how to create an impressive horror movie. Loosely inspired by real- life murderers David and Catherine Birnie, it is set in Perth, Australia, and the plot centres around a couple of serial killers who go after teenage girls, kidnapping and torturing them. Not every act of cruelty is seen, but they are always heard; in both cases, the atmosphere is tense and suffocating, sometimes almost unbearable.
However, unlike Wolf Creek, another well-known Australian horror movie, Hounds of Love isn’t violent for the sake of pleasing bloodthirsty fans – it’s much more than that. There’s an element of drama that makes the story not only better, but surprisingly scarier. The main target (but not the first) of the deranged couple is Vicki Maloney (played by Ashleigh Cummings in a great and extremely convincing performance), but she isn’t the only one suffering: Evelyn White (a demanding role Emma Booth plays to perfection) seems at first just as diabolical as her despicable husband John (a dark, twisted character actor/comedian Stephen Curry nails it), but we slowly learn she’s a deeply disturbed woman who, deep down, wants to get out of this horrible reality; in many ways, she is a victim just like the ones she has a hand in kidnapping. Vicki takes advantage of this, but also displays concern towards Evelyn, maybe because she comes from a broken home and knows what it’s like to be miserable. Vicki certainly wasn’t happy before all this took place: their parents got divorced and that made her angry and confused; at one point, she ends up getting into a heated argument with her mother Maggie and decides, in an act of defiance, to attend a party after being told not to. On her way there, she meets the dangerous couple, marking the beginning of an intense journey. It’s fascinating to see how Ben Young portrays the female characters. The women are put in tough scenarios – being held captive and stuck in unhealthy relationships – that they must overcome in order to be free. Even Maggie desperately searches for happiness and peace, and she will not rest until she finds her missing daughter.
It’s certainly not often these days to find such a compelling horror/thriller, one which manages to be uncomfortably realistic and makes the viewer think about its emotionally complex story. In recent times, we have seen some remarkable horror movies coming from Australia – Babadook by Jennifer Kent being a perfect example. However, its content may result in Hounds of Love not getting the attention and recognition it deserves, which would be a shame since it is really well written and beautifully shot. On the other hand, it has everything to become a cult classic. Whatever happens, Ben Young has something special here.