‘Hounds of Love’ is a Gruesome, Intense Psychological Thriller

Hounds of Love wins two feature film awards at the 2017 Overlook Film Festival

Hounds of Love is a movie that will stay with me for a long time, and may keep me up some nights wondering ”where is my teenage daughter right now?” I had the chance to screen this amazing, taken-right-from-the-headlines, difficult to watch film; and would like to share how much of an impression it made on me.

Hounds of Love immerses the audience right into the middle of any teen girl or their parent’s, worst nightmare. An overwhelming hit at this past weekends The Overlook Film Festival, the film won not only the Audience Award for Best Feature, the jurors also chose to honor director Ben Young’s Hounds of Love as the Best Feature at the festival stating, “Hounds of Love blew us away with its brilliant combination of gripping horror conventions and kitchen sink realism. Rich with tense performances and complex insight into working class struggles, it’s all the more impressive because it’s a first feature. We’re going to be talking about the movie – and this filmmaker – for a long time.”

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.

The isolated city of Perth, in Western Australia brings us a history of dark stories and true crime. Hounds of Love appears to be based on the serial killer couple from the 1980’s – David and Catherine Birnie. The couple abducted, brutally tortured and murdered four young women from Perth. The fifth intended victim got away, leading to their eventual arrests. Ben Young’s directorial debut draws upon the story, bring us a gripping, claustrophobic and violent tale.

The film which has been off-putting to some film festival audiences, is definitely difficult at times to watch, but that being said is still a riveting and suspenseful film. It captivated the audience at the Overlook and myself included. It is hard to watch this kind of honestly sometimes, but it is a story that must be told. These kinds of things happen every day, in our own neighborhoods, without us even knowing.

As a mom, these types of movies morph from the horror genre, into something much more sinister, something more real, and truly scare the crap out of me. But I think Hounds of Love handled that well, keeping most of the violence insinuated and off screen. I’m pretty sure I will never listen to the Moody Blues song “Nights in White Satin”, without getting cold chills and this movie coming to mind.

As the movie opens, we feel the heat, and the oppression of a hot day, and the languid visuals show us the world through a hunting predator’s eyes. The slow-motion takes us through neighborhoods with regular people doing regular daily things. Even though it’s predicable, you think to yourself, no, don’t get into the car, and are immediately concerned when a teen gets in and drives away with strangers. We don’t see this girl die, but there is enough evidence that we, just know, and our tension begins, dreading who will be next.

Without giving you too much of the story, there is a next victim, 17 year-old Vicki Maloney, played believably by Ashleigh Cummings. A teen that is angry at her mother Maggie, (Susie Porter) for forbidding her to go to a party, she sneaks out and has the bad luck to run right into the sadistic hands of John and Evelyn White (Stephen Curry, Emma Booth) and into the ugliness of their life.

Even though this is the story of abduction and torture, it is also the story of redemption. It is the story of mothers and daughters, and the bond females can have even in the worst of situations.

The character of John White is a pathetic one. A mean-hearted, cold killer, we know he is the reason for all the pain and suffering. We never feel truly sorry for his creepy emotionally dependent wife, but we can see the suffering of Evelyn White. A woman who is too broken to do anything except what her husband tells her to do, no matter how cruel he is to her too. This ultimately is what our teen uses to make an escape, to try to get back to the mother she believes still is looking for her. The difficulty in watching the violence in the movie, is tempered by watching Vicki, and the depths of her character, as she works out ways to make her escape real.

The soundtrack to the film had some very interesting choices and the music always seemed to fit in just right. The name of the movie came from a 1986 Kate Bush song that was too expensive for the filmmakers to get. Reading the words to the song and understanding the meaning, makes it a perfect title, even if at first I was not sure where the title fit in. The song deals with awakening sexuality and the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Check out the lyrics to the song sometime. I had never really listened that close to it before.

With wonderful visuals and stellar acting, Hounds of Love took me to a scary place, left me emotionally drained and wanting to call my daughter, just to check if she was home safe. This is not a movie for everyone, but it is a psychological thriller worth your time. Seeing strong women characters is always fulfilling for me, and I loved Vicki’s resilience. The sleaziness of the characters makes us want the bad guys to fail, keeping us rooting for our girl to survive.

To close, I thought it was interesting to hear what the Writer/Director Ben Young had to say about the film: “I was drawn to the idea of Hounds of Love after reading a true crime book about female serial killers.  What was terrifying to me growing up was the idea that a woman (and a mother) could partake in these awful crimes against teenage girls and for what – love? In an attempt to comprehend this in my adult life I became deeply fascinated by the  psychology of co-dependent relationships and began to understand just how they can manifest. A sociopath seeks out the vulnerable and the oppressed, grooming them to the point where they can control and manipulate them into doing even the most heinous of crimes, all in the name of ‘love’. There was so much I wanted to expose and explore in this because, although these cases of co-dependency are extreme, there is no doubt that different levels of power plays exist in many relationships, so much so I can even draw parallels in my own.

Thematically the film is about control and domestic violence, themes that by their very nature are universal. For me the film is a thesis on the psychology of the kinds of people who remain in these destructive kinds of relationships, not a justification for the heinous acts some of them commit as a result.”

Hounds of Love will be out in theaters and VOD on May 12th

For more info on the film go to their Website or Facebook Page



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