Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love (Ben Young, 2016) wr. Ben Young, prod. Melissa Kelly, dp Mick McDermott; Stephen Curry, Emma Booth, Susie Porter, Harrison Gilbertson, Ashleigh Cummings, Damien de Montemas; crime; WA

I take it all back: Emma Booth's career as a model is in the distant past. She is now the actress who gives the best performance in this. Ashleigh Cummings gets props for courage. And Steve Curry betrays no traces of his former career in comedy, tho he's not the dominating presence the director might have hoped for in casting a big name in his first feature. Visually, I liked the external shots best, and particularly the extreme slomo in the opening sequence. Once we're in the Whites' suburban house (possibly, from one exterior, in Coolbellup rather than in Willagee, where the Birneys lived) the cinematography has to be limited to evenly-lit shots of fridges etc., and that's most of the film. It's a relief when we get to the final shot of John (and I think he's leaning on the fridge) because we know we'll never see that kitchen again - unless we watch the film again, which we're not going to do, are we?

An outwardly normal suburban Perth couple who abduct, torture, and murder schoolgirls must face their funny games in debuting writer-director Ben Young’s genre-bending powerhouse thriller Hounds of Love. Brave audiences will be rewarded, if that’s the word, with a harrowing ride that morphs from discrete horror to probing character study and back again in a vivid yet admirably restrained 108 minutes. Look for strong word-of-mouth — both for and against — to propel this beyond festivals to specialized play. ...
Young seems to have based his fastidiously multi-layered script on elements of at least two real-life serial-killing sprees in Perth that affected him as a youngster, that of Eric Edgar Cooke, aka the 'Night Caller', and, more substantially, David and Catherine Birnie, instigators of the Moorhouse Murders — so named after the road [in Willagee] on which they lived (Malcolm Street in the film). ...
Funding organization Screenwest claims the film is the first to be developed, filmed, and posted entirely in the state of Western Australia. Eddie Cockrell, Variety.

Hounds of Love is about the subjugation of women and male-inflicted abuse, from brutal violence involving strangers to psychological domination from long-term partners. But Young has put a fresh and meaningful spin on a genre often preoccupied with cheap thrills. I left the cinema clutching the walls and breathing deeply, wondering whether the guy should be locked up or declared some kind of genius.
I decided on the latter. In sheer head-turning, artery-choking, disbelief-inducing style and chutzpah, this is a debut comparable to Snowtown (for Justin Kurzel) or The Babadook (for Jennifer Kent). Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian.

The dark side of sun-drenched Perth, Western Australia, one of the world's most isolated metropolises, has long been a source of fascination, memorably explored in author Robert Drewe's evocative true-crime memoir The Shark Net, about growing up during the wave of serial murders that shook the city in the 1950s. In his debut feature, Hounds of Love, writer-director Ben Young draws knowingly on that infamy, taking inspiration from the same killer, Eric Edgar Cooke, and more directly from David and Catherine Birnie, the couple who abducted and mutilated four young Perth women in the 1980s before the escape of their intended fifth victim led to their arrests. ...

The film's big problem — and it will be a categorical deal-breaker for many — is that even though Young continues to suggest more than he shows in terms of the sexual abuse and other violence, an unsavory whiff of torture-porn arises as Vicki's confinement grinds on and on. The script also gives way to movie-ish contrivances in the final act that undermine the verisimilitude of events that precede it. Nor does it help that we can predict Evie's role in the outcome long before it happens. ...
For anyone interested in Oz TV trivia, it's worth noting that Cummings and Porter are reunited here after starring together in the terrific drama series Puberty Blues, while Curry and Booth played father and daughter in the television adaptation of West Australian author Tim Winton's Perth-set modern classic, Cloudstreet, which also references the Cooke murders. David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter.

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Garry Gillard | New: 3 May, 2017 | Now: 14 July, 2017