Writer: Ben Young
Cast: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry
Running time: 108mins
What’s the story: Perth, 1987. Teenage school girl Vickie (Cummings) is abducted by serial killer couple John and Evelyn (Curry and Booth). Held hostage by them, she attempts to influence the tremulous, though dangerous Evelyn.
What’s the verdict: Hounds of Love is the type of film that generates buzz on the horror film festival circuit, but has a short lifespan in the real world.
Borrowing heavily from the superior Snowtown, debut writer/director Young shoots with the same muted aesthetic, locating the film’s horrors in a forgotten working class neighbourhood, with serial killers who force their victims to pen diversionary notes to family members.
But, despite lifting from the true life case of psychopaths David and Catherine Birnie, Young does not base Hounds of Love on true events.
Meaning he presents degradation and terrorisation with very little insight into 1980s Perth’s low income areas or police incompetence that could lead to this happening in suburbia.
No amount of “serious filmmaking” devices (violence largely kept offscreen, stark compositions, naturalistic sound design) can hide this gaping flaw.
When the third act arrives, with its risible third act contrivances and improbable Nancy Drew style clues, it becomes clear this is no more serious than those creaky (though more interesting) video nasties The New York Ripper and The House by the Edge of the Park.
Saving Hounds of Love from total failure are three excellent performances from the leads (Young can undoubtedly direct actors) and interesting backstory sketches. Best of which is Evelyn’s fantasy belief she’ll get her children back, Booth astonishing as she captures her character’s monstrousness and pathos.
But, the lasting impression is a lot of talent has been squandered on a distasteful tale with little to say but a lot of leering. And a criminal misuse of Joy Division’s Atmosphere late in the film. Thankfully, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love does not suffer the same fate, being noticeably absent from the film. She must have read the script.