Hounds of Love (2016)

Starring: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter

Directed by: Ben Young

Rating: 1 2 3 4

During the Glasgow Film Festival screening of Ben Young's Hounds of Love, it's pointed out that some of the most daring horror debuts of recent years have come from Australia. Think Wolf Creek, The Babadook or Snow Town – all visceral, involving movies breaking new ground in horror – or at least reworking old ground in a novel, exciting way.

And Hounds of Love is no exception. Closest to the downbeat, grimy aesthetic of serial killer true story Snow Town (which has to be one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, a forensic, Ken Loach-style study of poverty and lack of opportunity, but with murders) it follows a dysfunctional couple, Evelyn and John (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry) who regularly kidnap young girls, drag them back to their dreary, Neighbours-esque suburban bungalow, tie them up, torture them, kill them and bury them in the woods. In need of a new plaything, they capture local spoilt teen Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings).

Emma Booth and Stephen Curry in Hounds of Love

In most films of this kind (take, for example, British indie shocker Mum and Dad), the focal point would be Vicki, and whether or not she can engineer an escape from her captors. But instead, by far the most compelling character here is Evelyn, a deeply damaged individual with crushingly low self-esteem, who, while clearly taking a perverse pleasure in the chase, is far less comfortable dealing with the victims once they're captive in her home. Yet, housing a surely impossible pipe dream of regaining custody of her estranged children, she will stop at nothing to keep her mean, manipulative partner happy.

Not so much a kidnap thriller as a powerful portrait of domestic abuse – both physical and mental – and the way in which such treatment can be meted out almost in plain sight and go unchallenged, Hounds of Love is an absorbing, shocking and thought-provoking film, well worth seeing – if you have the stamina, as, trust me, it's not for the faint-hearted...

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