Hounds of Love: A tense thriller with a misleading title

Hounds of Love: A tense thriller with a misleading title

Hounds of Love may have a title I don’t particularly care for or understand, but it’s a tense thriller that toes the line without quite crossing it and features a fantastic performance by Ashleigh Cummings, who you may know as Dot from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

First, a little background: Hounds of Love is an Australian film directed by Ben Young. Here’s the official synopsis:

In suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killer couple John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive.

This is a really excellent example of the more recent shift in horror films from “jump out and scare you” to directors instead creating a palpable feeling of tension in the viewer. Hounds of Love takes the realistically harrowing situation of being kidnapped, assaulted, and held as a prisoner and uses it as the backdrop against which to explore the relationships between a few different people: a teenager and the mother she’s angry at, a woman and the man she loves, who alternately abuses her and makes her feel incredibly loved, and a girl and her kidnappers. With a well-written, incredibly tense script and under the capable direction of Young, the characters are driven towards and away from each other, all due to this chance, horrible situation.

unnamedWhile all of the actors are fantastic in their roles, Cummings (Vicki) and Emma Booth (Evelyn) deserve special mention. Cummings plays Vicki as a kidnap victim who is not only sympathetic, but also easy to root for, especially because she continuously takes every opportunity to escape, even by observing the people who captured her and using their own weaknesses and doubts against them. Early on in her captivity, Vicki witnesses the couple fighting and sees that there are issues she can take advantage of to convince Evelyn to set her free. Her character’s intelligence and ability to keep her wits about her in an incredibly stressful situation make her an individual entirely worth liking and give her an active agency in the film that’ll keep you hooked until the end. For her part, Booth is masterful in weaving the character of Emma, a woman whose insecurities about getting older and her lack of power in her unstable relationship combine to make her at once desperate and cruel. Of the two captors, she is the most interesting to watch, particularly because, while she is sympathetic and swayed by her partner, she is by no means solely doing what she is told.

download (1)And then there is the kidnapping itself: while at times, I question the ethics of creating these types of incredibly realistic situations on screen solely for viewing pleasure, Young never quite crosses the line, although he does toe it a few times. Instead, he uses the cutaway, and to great effect, thus creating far more tension by allowing the viewer to use their imagination as to what’s going on as opposed to seeing it viscerally displayed. While the ending likely won’t come as a surprise, Hounds of Love is a win for the writing, the characters, and the ability to throw a few twists in there that will keep you engaged throughout.

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I'm a regular contributing writer to this website. I got into horror movies through the sci-fi monster films I watched with my dad as a kid (ex. Aliens) and the extreme amounts of zombie movies I spent a good portion of my college career watching. I absolutely love zombies (obviously), am a sucker for a low budget (or any) monster movie, and adore horror-comedy films. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of my favorite books, and I'm still waiting for an actually decent film adaptation to bring that fantastic novel to life. Outside of my life as a horror fan, I'm a writer and editor with dreams of turning my screenplays into movies and a love of wine and murder mysteries.

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