Australian director Ben Young’s debut feature film is a dark tale, the darkest I’ve seen in years, about a murderous couple in the suburbs of a small town in Australia. The film is a Psychological thriller based on the murders and kidnappings of Perth’s murderous couple The Birnies, and though this fact is never mentioned in the film, the similarities between the murders committed by The Birnies and those represented on screen are incredibly hard to miss. Now before we go any further, this film is indeed not for the faint of heart. Despite the fact that almost all of the violence and gore is done off-screen, Hounds of Love remains a nerve wrecking experience that will ultimately disturb its viewer.
The story follows a rebellious high school girl, Vicky (Ashleigh Cummings), who is stuck in the middle of her parents’ divorce. One night she escapes her house after being grounded only to be lured into the home of deranged couple Evelyn and John White (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry). What follows is an 80 minute long nightmare of disturbing perversity and torture, and some very fine filmmaking. The strength of Hounds of Love lies not in the gore and the bloodshed, but in the fact that it keeps everything as realistic and authentic as possible. The way John and Evelyn lead their lives is highly plausible which makes for an even more chilling story. In other words; Ben Young managed to capture true human evil on screen, and it is both unsettling and mesmerizing.
As the film progresses, we delve deeper into the demented psyches of the couple as the dynamic behind their relationship unfolds in front of Vicky, who soon realizes that her only way to escape is to use this dynamic in her favor. Hounds of Love goes the extra mile in trying to explain the highly abusive codependent relationship that binds these two murderers together. Backed by praise worthy performances from all the cast – especially the two leading ladies – the film delivers a powerful and troubling character study of the minds of serial killer couples. Perhaps the film’s only sin is that its pace is often confusing; with it being too slow for a thriller, yet too fast for a drama. This discontinuity gives an impression of being rather underdeveloped.
Hounds of Love is a film destined for critical acclaim. Its powerful camerawork, intense performances, and ultra-realism all make for a respectable work of art that would both shock and captivate its audience, and it would definitely appear on lots of lists for best Australian films in the future.