Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hounds of Love: NZIFF Review

Hounds of Love: NZIFF Review

An edge-of-your-seat white knuckle ride chock-full of dread, Hounds of Love is a kidnap abduction tale that stretches the tension out as far as it can go, and still manages to leave you feeling like you're still on a rack.

A tale of stubbies and psychos, but with a great deal more complexity than perhaps you'd be expecting from a genre thriller like this, Hounds of Love is set in the suburbs of Perth in December 1987.
Hounds of Love: NZIFF Review

Against a backdrop of a spate of missing girls, Ashleigh Cummings' Vicki, a sulky teen whose parents have just split up and who's resentful of the 2 days she has to spend with her mother, who lives in a rough neighbourhood. Sneaking out one night to go to a party, and with no cries of Stranger Danger echoing in her ears, Vicki accepts a lift from a seemingly normal couple, John and Evelyn (Stephen Curry and a terrific Emma Booth).

However, when she's drugged, she wakes up chained to a bed, with no idea of what's ahead, other than at Christmas, it can't be good....

Hounds of Love is an excellently uneasy film that marks a soaring debut from Ben Young.

Billed as the Wolf Creek equivalent of suburbia, what Young's managed to do here is to create an utter atmosphere redolent in unease and beige-filled discomfort.

But more than you average horror, what's been brought to the table with Hounds of Love is a case of a subtle amount of complexities in the characters of both Evelyn and Vicki. While Curry's work as John can't be underplayed thanks to the menace he positively exudes throughout, the greater lion's share of the writing's been thrown into little moments of Evelyn and Vicki's characters, imbuing both with a sense of tragedy, pathos and a degree of empathy.

Essentially, Hounds of Love may be a story of a kidnap, but in Evelyn, it's actually the story of two victims and two kidnaps. It's this subtlety that makes the film such a damn strong roller-coaster ride of beige and brutality, and Young is clearly blazing a trail here with a deliberately slow eye and smart use of tension. Like Don't Breathe did, Young makes great fist of the house setting, and promotes claustrophobia and horror with implied violence rather than implicit, a key factor on what sets Hounds of Love apart.

Suspenseful, thrilling, worthy of hiding behind a sofa, yet blessed with edges that make it a little smarter than the usual genre fare, Hounds of Love is a stylish suburban nightmare you won't want to wake from.

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