Review by Mark Merrell
Disturbing and Masterfully Crafted–Hounds Of Love Is The Stuff Of Nightmares.
Set in Perth, located Western Australia, lurks a husband and wife. They appear to be a loving, decent couple. The secrets they harbor are the stuff of nightmares. Traveling to December 1987, we find ourselves in a parking lot adjacent to a school in the middle of the day watching high school girls playing netball. A slow motion pan across the group starts, and we begin focus in on the girls individually, as unknowingly, we are stalking them through the eyes of Mr John White (Stephen Curry, The King, The Castle, It’s A Date, Rogue) and his wife, Evelyn (Emma Booth, Glitch, Gods of Egypt, Parker), sitting nearby in their car.
They decide on their victim, waiting, and watching one of the young girls, Gabby Donovan (Lisa Bennet, Broken Contract, Choose Your Homage: Chinchilla Hunt) start down a sidewalk to get home. It’s a very hot day, so the couple pulls up and convinces Gabby to let them drive her home.
The film then introduces us to Vicki Malone (Ashliegh Cummings, When the War Began) and her boyfriend, Jason (Harrison Gilbertson, Need for Speed, Haunt) at his place. He has a handwritten report that he has completed for Vicki for school, and she is there to pick it up.
The movie cuts back to The White’s home, featuring boarded up windows, bristling with the sounds of muffled screaming emanating from it’s it cracks. Without showing Gabby completely, the camera shot is low, centered on the chains holding her captive. Her wrists are cut, bruised, and bleeding from her apparent attempts to get free in the darkened room, laying on a bed. The camera shows us clues of what atrocities have recently taken place.
Back at school, Vicki’s teacher, Miss Martin (Holly Jones, Dirty Deeds, First Date) explains to Vicki that she understands what it’s like, as her parents are going through a divorce.
Back at the White’s house, John is in the process of killing Gabby. We don’t see the act, but the splatters of blood indiscriminately splashed on walls tell the tale. As John loads his victim into the back of the car, Evelyn is doing the laundry. John buries Gabby unceremoniously in a remote forest. He looks around a bit, making us think that more of his victims are buried nearby. The couple handles the murder in such a nonchalant manor that the audience senses Gabby was just one of many for them. This also sends the creepiness level up several notches.
Vicki meets with her dad, Trevor (Damien de Montemas, Somersault, Underbelly, The Secret Life of Us). He lives in big expensive home. Her dad surprises Vicki with a cute puppy, much to her delight. Vicki is taken latter to her mother Maggie’s (Susie Porter, Underbelly, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones), a very small dwelling. Vicki, we learn, only visits her mom twice a week, and their relationship is strained. After looking over Vicki’s homework, and seeing that it’s not in her handwriting, she tells Vicki see is not going out to a party with Jason, but is grounded. Vicki storms out of the room, into her bedroom, and slams the door shut.
As the evening wears on, Vicki decides to sneak out. She puts on her makeup, and changes her clothes. In a great shot from the front of her mom’s home at night, we see Maggie through a big window on the left, settling in to watch television, while on the right, we witness Vicki sliding a window open, as she crawls out to freedom and on to the party.
Vicki ends up walking through neighborhoods strewn with mounds of trash. At one point, she is frightened by a car load of guys. As fate would have it, the Whites are cruising down the same street. They pull up to talk with Vicki with a friendly conversation, and thus begins her horrific tale.
Directed and written by Ben Young (Trapped, Something Fishy, Bush Basher), he tantalizes the audience with anticipation of moments to come. His style includes the use of slow motion cinematography at times, adding to the feeling of time caught in a moment. He interlaces horror using our minds eye at times. We are at the scene, but not always graphically. This allows the audience to create their own effects in their thoughts, while not getting hung up on the visual act of gore or violence itself. He doesn’t always do this, so your not sure what is lurking behind the next moment on the screen. The result is both original and frightening.
The character development is next to none. Curry certainly pulls off Mr White in a perfect demeanor. Arguably though, it’s Booth and Cummings that absolutely take this movie to another level. Booth as Evelyn White shows an blazing array of emotion. Cummings completes the pairing with her exceptional performance. Even in a somewhat smaller capacity, Porter takes control of the screen in each shot she is given with her outstanding acting ability.
In the cinema, certain scenes stand out, etched indelibly into our minds. Young takes the opportunity to bring such a moment. His nightmare marriage of the Moody Blues, “Knights in White Satin,” as the Whites dance in prelude of horror is an unbelievably surreal moment.
Hounds of Love is not for the faint of heart, but if you can manage to hold on to your seat in the darkness of the theater, you are certainly in for an unflinching ride of terror.
In theaters and VOD on May 12.