29th Jan2018

‘Hounds of Love’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson | Written and Directed by Ben Young


It’s 1987, it’s Perth in Western Australia, and seventeen year old Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted from a suburban street by John and Evelyn, a disturbed serial-killing couple. As she observes the dynamic between her captors she quickly realises she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive…

Apparently “inspired” by real life crimes, Hounds of Love is a stunning debut feature from director Ben Young, if a little ‘tame’ for its gruesome subject matter. Yes, I did say tame. Young opens his film with a slow-mo look at schoolgirls playing volleyball during a bright Summer’s day. Which seems innocent enough, until you realise we’re looking at the girls thorugh the gaze of our perverted kidnappers – however the power and the unease that opening scene has, as shadows suggest the girls touching themselves and we’re unable to look away, is not matched by the rest of the film.

Of course the idea of the kidnap, rape and torture of teenage girls is, on paper, a vile story to tell; but after that strong opening I expected to be as disturbed by the rest of Hounds of Love. However Young’s film spends the rest of its time hinting as what disturbing acts are going on rather than showing it. I couldn’t help but wonder if going down the route of Christopher Sun’s Daddy’s Little Girl would have made the film that much more powerful and given it a LOT more impact – though I’m sure the film would have come under fire for being far too misogynistic in that case. Sun’s film, another fantastic Australian production, was not shy in showing events unfolding on screen; that film was ultimately more of a truly horrific experience…

That’s not to say that Young’s film is still not powerful, it is, just in a very different way. Similar to The Girl Next Door, the film based on the Jack Ketchum novel, Hounds of Love actually plays like a subdued, yet more emotionally complex, version of that story. Whereas the former film played up the shock factor, Young’s film has a deeper more troubling story to tell. Here we’re seeing three women – the girl, her mother, AND the kidnapper – all affected by the same incident; all three trying to escape from their situations. Obviously Vicki is trying to escape her captors; yet her mother – the women she sees as hampering, nay ruining, her life – is also trying to escape a broken marriage and to move on with her life; however it’s Evelyn, the partner of the perverted serial-killing rapist John, whose escape is the most troubling.

Trapped in a relationship that has taken her from innocent to co-conspirator, Evelyn is as much a victim of John as their teen victim Vicki is. She has been convinced of her unworthiness; beaten and belittled in subservience – so much so that the small amount of power she is able to wield, over the duo’s victims, is an addiction. And John knows just how much to “feed” Evelyn to keep her in tow and under his control. Though John’s control only extends to those inside his house – as Young shows us in a wonderful scene in which John is victimised by a couple of locals.

Packed with wonderful performances, in particular Emma Booth as Evelyn (in what I’d call a career-making role), Hounds of Love is a complex, complicated look at the nature of serial killers… The film is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

****½  4.5/5

Extras on Arrow Video’s Hounds of Love Blu-ray includes interviews with actors Stephen Curry, Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings; a behind-the-scenes featurette; two short films from Hounds of Love director Ben Young: ‘Something Fishy’ (2010) and ‘Bush Basher’ (2011); the John Butler Trio “Only One” music video, directed by Ben Young; and the trailer.

3 Responses to “‘Hounds of Love’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)”

  • Samantha

    Well 4.5/5 is stretching it.

    Especially for a film that Ben Young based entirely on the real life Birnie serial killings, with a few changes so Young didn’t have to secure any underlying story rights. If Young wanted to explore the relationship dynamics of women who commit murder in couples then he should have come up with original content, not traded off real victims of crime and made a film that has deeply offended the surviving victim of the serial killing couple David and Catherine Birnie. In fact in marketing this film Young has enjoyed notoriety and career gains for himself because of the comparison. Women who kill are not victims, they are killers, with no respect for human life. Emma Booth’s performance glorifies the female serial killer Catherine Birnie in ways that have been purposefully done to encourage audience empathy to win Booth awards. However as criminal lawyers and psychiatrists know real female serial killers enjoy killing and know exactly what they are doing; enacting pychopathic acts of power and violence to compensate for their own inadequacies.

    An entirely contrived film that shunned community consultation, refused to compensate the real life victims of crime and their families and serves to promote the career advancement of the filmmakers only.

    Well done Ben Young for getting a career for exploiting others.

  • John

    One of the weakest written 2nd Acts, of any genre film, punctuated by gratuitous incidents that revolve around dog and human excrement. The ending of this film also falls into Ben Young’s familiar terrain of music video trope.

    True Crime is what this film hangs it’s hat on but the irony is that the police report of the 17 year old who survived the clutches of the real life serial killers upon which Young’s film is “inspired” is more interesting. In fact she was a true heroine. Instead Young focuses upon the thesis he believes infallible, that all women are disempowered victims.

    Young borrows from everywhere and everyone unable to even find an original title on his own. This film is actually quite pointless for any audience and leaves intelligent women feeling insulted having watched it.

  • Rosie S.

    Yes, I’d have to agree with previous comments on this film. Not worth buying on DVD or paying to watch on download.

    The screenplay is disappointing. All the female characters in this film are defined by their relationships to men, as proxy for Ben Young’s own male perspective. Where is the great climax when female captive truly confronts her female captor? It just doesn’t happen.

    Instead the director opts for a Silence of the Lambs going to the wrong house moment, followed by more slow motion cinematography and a song from Joy Division that’s supposed to sum it all up for us.

    I’m left scratching my head staring at the credit roll wondering how on earth this film could have cost over 2 million dollars to make and what a waste of Australian tax payers money.