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Tribeca Film Festival 2017: ‘Hounds of Love’, A Psychological Horror-Thriller With Bite

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The horror and thriller genres have been somewhat lacking in recent times. Occasionally, we get something insane like Get Out, but for the most part it seems like the freakier film ideas have kind of dried up. That is so not the case with the Australian shocker Hounds of Love, a sick, twisted, and downright disturbing thriller of a movie. The style is unique, best described as gritty suspense, and  both the acting and direction work in total concert, providing the viewer with a visceral experience that needs to be seen to be believed.

The story in Hounds is simple enough, but the way in which the plot unfolds will probably leave you breathless. We are introduced to three characters, the first being the rebellious 17-year-old Vicki Maloney (Ashleigh Cummings), a precocious beauty who sneaks away from her house and dysfunctional family to engage in various teenage hijinks. She is soon approached by seemingly normal couple Evelyn and John White, who then lure Vicki into their car with marijuana. Things escalate when the couple drugs Vicki and holds her captive in their Perth suburban home, and the rest of film is a dark trip that is both brutal – not only physically, but mentally as well – on Vicky, creating a truly disturbing experience for the audience.

Hounds of Love hass a strong story, and the direction here by Ben Young is utterly sensational. The cuts are quick and the editing fierce. Cinematographer Michael McDermott should also be commended for his artistic touch; the camera sneaks and weaves in and out through the Whites’ house, which is almost a character in its own right. Set in the 1980s, the story benefits from a very authentic style, with slight grain in the picture and washout colors. The furniture, clothes, and cars all contribute, and it really does kind of feel like you’re in a world 30 years ago.

With three main characters, Hounds feels like a stage production, and what a wild play this would be. The main set is the house, and unspeakable things transpire within. Poor Vicki is drugged, tied up, and abused physically and mentally – and I’ll just leave it at that. Young Ashleigh Cummings is terrific as the poor victim who just wanted to party. The party she found, however, was not exactly what she was looking for.

The sick couple (played eerily brilliant by Emma Booth and Stephen Curry) are on a whole other level. They are very believable, and their sinister story is actually based on real-life Aussie serial killers. The fact that this film is partially based on actual events makes it all the more creepy, a prime example of “art imitating life,” and the results are really quite shocking.

Few films are as intense and unwavering in their goal to disturb. Hounds of Love is a bizarre film, and doesn’t care who it offends. The violence and action are in your face and unflinching, making this an experience you will probably never forgot. Ben Young also penned the screenplay, and though it contains a fair amount of profanity, it also opens up opportunities for the characters to show deepness and intense vulnerability. Our “heroine” Vicki spends much of the film tied to a bed, and her fear and feeling of uncertainty is expressed through her intense, yet beautiful eyes. We, the audience, are along for her ride and it is really pretty terrifying.

Hopefully Ben Young will continue to make films of this caliber, because Hounds of Love is a special kind of horror. It’s very psychological, and the physical nature of the scenes and the actions of the cast are all put on display, made the main event. Vicki wants nothing more than to escape her captors, and her struggles to do so are exceptionally displayed. Young’s filmmaking prowess lends itself very well to narrative features, as it almost feels like a documentary with how real the action plays out on screen.

Hounds of Love is certainly not for the squeamish, but it is a film that fans of cinema should definitely visit. It’s powerful, violent, and in many ways, uncomfortable. It’s a film that doesn’t care if it offends, because Young’s vision is just what it is: an artist’s vision. At the Tribeca Film Festival, this was at the top of my list of best films. It sucks you in and grabs you because it is so deeply twisted. The performances are all top, notch and the filmmaking is among the best of festival’s offerings.

Randall J. Unger (Randy) is a film critic and interviewer who reviews movies of all kinds. He interviews actors, filmmakers, composers, dancers, and even special effects makeup artists for his film review show / podcast 'Unger the Radar'. Some of the talent he has interviewed includes Jude Law, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Marisa Tomei, Elijah Wood, Kevin Pollak, Robert Rodriguez, and Kal Penn. He is a regular fixture at screenings, comic cons, and other special events. He is based in New York City. Twitter: @randall_unger

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1 Comment

  1. Ricky D

    May 5, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Good review. I’m really looking forward to seeing this film but I wholeheartedly disagree with you that good horror films are few and far between. Most of the best films of recent years have all been horror films or thrillers. Get Out is a great film but far from the best horror film of 2017, and we are not even halfway through the year yet.

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