Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love is a heck of a movie to watch on Mother’s Day.

Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) blames her mom for leaving her and her dad. When she’s staying with her mom (which is only two nights a week), Vicki isn’t the most pleasant or respectful kid. So when her mom tells her that she can’t go out to a party, Vicki sneaks out anyway. But she never makes it to the party. She’s abducted along the way by John and Evelyn (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth), who plan to use her for their pleasure and then throw her away. Vicki isn’t the first girl that they’ve taken, and she won’t be the last.

This is an incredibly uncomfortable movie, which is evident right from the opening sequence: a close-up, slow-motion sexualizing schoolgirls playing a basketball-like game on a hot December day in Perth, Western Australia. The discomfort continues as we learn more about John and Evelyn. John is highly abusive toward Evelyn, in a way that feels more believable than other recent films (like Colossal) that attempt the same thing. And of course there’s the whole “a couple using a teenager for their sexual pleasure” plot, which gets even more amped up when it overlaps with John’s abusiveness and lasciviousness. But it’s when the film combines the uneasiness with moments of heart-pounding intensity that it’s at its most effective.

It’s also a surprisingly well-shot film. It makes great use of slow motion sequences; even better than the aforementioned opening sequence is one in the middle of the film that just depicts people going about their day, with the camera revved up to to the point that time almost seems to stand still. But even at normal speed, the film looks great, even while depicting horrible things, and the visuals pair really well with the bare-bones soundtrack.

The movie is also sometimes frustrating. That’s in part because it lets you think that you’re smarter than it is so that you can get pre-annoyed. Sometimes your hunches and annoyance may be justified, but it is a surprisingly intelligent and well-written film, and it took a few turns that I didn’t expect. It’s an impressive first feature from writer/director Ben Young, and I look forward to seeing what he can come up with in the future.