Film Review – ‘Hounds of Love’

It is 1987 and John and Evelyn are a pair of serial killers scanning the neighbourhood for young girls. The streets of suburban Australia are distilled in slow motion shots. A low rumbling score introduces threat. Ben Young has triumphed in ‘Hounds of Love‘, his first feature length work.

Most of the threat is maintained through the technical work. The camera places us under the same roof as the physical violence and abuse, but often facing away from it or in the next room. The very edges of the frame give us glimpses of what is going on. Often we hear the screams of victim Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) whilst the camera is panning around the domestic interiors; the kitchen, the hallway.

The use of extreme close-up in the first instance shows the impatient eye of John (Stephen Curry). Later it is used to show the horrific detail in brief duration, and is followed up by longer lingering shots of evidence; often a messy and chaotic aftermath.

The main section of the film reveals as much about Evelyn (Emma Booth) as it does about the victim. Evelyn’s psychosis and dependency are captured on screen. The use of the lead room is telling – in an early scene, she is cold and physically turned away from Vicki. All of Evelyn’s body language is awkward and uncomfortable, and the lead room is placed on the left side of the two-shot, away from Vicki on the right. It seems that here (and in so many other instances) she is depending on John, awaiting instruction, anxious under his control.

The combination of a harsh mix of sound (diegetic noise from the scene and the addition of the score) and the restrictive camera angles is somewhat typical of the genre. There are interesting moments where the couple put a record on the turntable and the song is immediately on a high volume. The clashing personalities, even between Evelyn and John is highlighted in the fight for volume, space, and resulting attention.

There are some minor details that fall flat. The use a Joy Division song in the film’s final chapter is a little too obvious. There are some choices in editing that borrow from a television drama. The continued dialogue from one scene into the next visual, for instance. In balance the main score of the film is menacing, and some of the parallel editing choices are cleverly brought to screen. A promising debut from Ben Young.

Zach Roddis | [rating=4]

Crime, Drama, Horror | Australia, 2016 | 18 | 28th July 2017 (UK) | Arrow Films | Dir.Ben Young | Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry,Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas