SXSW Film Review:
Hounds of Love
by Trish Connelly
Ben Young’s Hounds of Love renders as an emotionally staggering directorial debut, illustrating the vicious and cyclical nature of relationship abuse between both lovers and serial killers. Based loosely on true events, the film takes place in December, 1987 in the suburbs of Perth, Australia. Cruising down neighborhood streets, serial killers John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth) lure adolescent girls into their car, kidnapping and torturing them before disposing of their bodies in the sprawling woods. One night after an argument with her mother, Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) leaves her house to go to a party only to find herself chained and gagged in the couple’s home after the tempting offer of some weed. What ensues is not only the victimization of Vicki and her attempts to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John, but also the victimization as seen through the eyes of Evelyn and the patterns of emotional and physical abuse she endures with her partner.
Hounds of Love is perfectly paced from start to finish; we know something menacing is looming just around the corner from the ominous tone of slow-motion panning shots of girls playing volleyball in suburbia to the spanning of identical houses lining the neighborhoods, doubly heightened by the pulsating musical score (as well as a choice placement for Joy Division’s brooding and cyclical track “Atmosphere”). The film casts extraordinary performances from Stephen Curry as calculating and devious, knowing precisely how to push Evelyn’s buttons to get exactly what he wants as well as reciting all the right things to say to make her forgive him. Vicki exhibits a full spectrum of emotions ranging from vulnerability from being held captive, an immense desire and drive to escape, and the intelligence to recognize the emotional turbulence between her captors before teetering on the brink of hopelessness. Emma Booth plays Evelyn’s role phenomenally as shown by her ability to act as both a serial killer in power, yet falls to emotional pieces and loses sight of her control by John’s ability to repeatedly wear her down and bind her by jealousy whenever he’s alone with Vicki. From pictures of Evelyn on the fridge carrying a small child to the boxes of dolls and toys strewn around the room where Vicki is held captive, Evelyn is desperate for affection and to create some semblance of a normal family but being stricken with constant abuse has led her to feel just as trapped as Vicki is (minus the physical shackles). While the film continues to dig a figurative hole of despair and bleakness, remaining a difficult pill to swallow for near its entirety, Ben Young successfully recognizes the immense significance that without casting a beam of light you cannot have the dark.
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.