Oz Film Fest: Hounds of Love (2016)

Ben Brown’s first feature Hounds of Love is a brutal serial killer thriller.

Dog Days

by Alexa Dalby

Hounds of Love

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Hostile teenager Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), after sneaking out of her mother’s (Susie Porter) house to go to a party, is tricked by an apparently normal, friendly couple first into a lift and then into their home. It’s the start of horrific imprisonment and torture by a pair of mutually dependent serial killers – an Australian Fred and Rosemary West. Yet these two – John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth) seem more inadequate than evil.

Writer and director Ben Brown, in his first feature (his previous shorts were Something Fishy and Bush Basher), sets up the suburban normality that masks the horror by using silent slow motion for harmless activities such as children playing in their front gardens. He contrasts it with the dingy, closed-in bungalow of the killers from which Vicki desperately tries various ways to escape – “They always try to get out of the back door,” John observes amusedly.

There are genuinely tense, thrilling scenes – but though they may have you on the edge of your seat they lack the emotional engagement of similar scenes of bids for freedom in, say, Room. Observing the degradation of Vicki’s treatment starts to seem voyeuristic and the dynamic between her, John and Evelyn feels as it it needs more development to get to its surprise denouement. That said, it’s a brutal, dark, all-too-probable thriller that effectively does every genre thing you’d expect.

Hounds of Love is showing on 1 July 2017 with an eclectic mix of other Australian films in the OZ Film Festival in London and is released on 28 July 2017 in the UK.

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