Film

Boston Underground Film Festival 2017: 'Hounds of Love'

The captivity narrative in Hounds of Love explores the depths of a grisly co-dependence.


Hounds of Love

Director: Ben Young
Cast: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry
Studio: Factor 30 Films
Year: 2016
US Release Date: 3017-03-11

There’s no doubt that the subject of captivity is a compelling tool for fictional narratives. As we’ve seen in films like Rob Reiner's Misery (1990), the dynamic established in a captivity narrative is useful in the way it can be used to investigate the psychology of the kidnapper. For example, in Misery, the kidnapping is not the most interesting part of the work, nor are the ways in which the main character, a writer named Paul Sheldon (James Caan), tries to escape. Rather, the most interesting part is watching and studying the actions of Annie (Kathy Bates), the crazed fan that kidnaps Paul. In watching her, we can only understand who she is relative to how she treats Paul and what she desires from him.

This understanding of the function of captivity narratives may reveal why the Australian chiller, Hounds of Love, had already amassed a respectable number of positive reviews before its screening at the Boston Underground Film Festival in late March. In Hounds of Love, captivity is not just a vehicle for torturous, gut-wrenching scenes -- though there are a few of those -- but a way to make sense of the relationship between the two kidnappers.

The two kidnappers, in this case, are Evelyn (Emma Booth) and John (Stephen Curry). They are ordinary suburbanites who, at night, cruise the streets of Perth, in Western Australia, looking for young women to abduct. One night, they come upon Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), a high school girl heading to a party. Predictably, she never makes it.

Once Vicki wakes up from a drug-induced nap, she finds herself tied to a bed in the couple’s compact suburban home. Outside, large dogs roam the backyard like sharks circling their prey. Inside, Evelyn studies the relationship between her captors from her vantage point in the guest bedroom and plots her escape.

John and Evelyn are ostensibly based on David and Catherine Birnie, two real-life serial killers from Perth that killed four women in the '80s in what would later be known as the Moorhouse murders. Whether the portrayal is accurate or not is irrelevant. The film may center on the killers, but it's not about them as much as it;s about their relationship and, more broadly, gendered power dynamics.

As the film progresses and we learn more about the characters, we begin to understand how their relationship functions and how their own psychological states foster a certain grisly co-dependence. That being said, director Ben Young doesn’t seem to be interested in humanizing them or being sympathetic. Rather, the film seeks to portray their characters honestly and without compromise, letting their actions reveal who they really are with a focus on their psychology.

In that regard, Hounds of Love does a good job illustrating how a charismatic leader can influence a person whose own psychological state is fragile and searching. Once the audience gets to know the characters, the events of the film fall into a cold but logical pattern. If we know of how John and Evelyn think, we can’t imagine the film playing out any other way.

It’s also worth mentioning that the cast is instrumental in being able to bring the story to life. Watching the film, it’s impossible to conceive of it without the trio of Booth, Curry, and Cummings in the lead roles. Booth especially plays the damaged and fragile Evelyn with skill, oscillating between fury, sadness, and submission in a way that is fluid and consistent with the character.

Young and his Director of Photography, Michael McDermott, deserve additional praise for the look of the film, which effortlessly evokes summertime and the careless abandon of youth. At the same time, it’s the combination of the excellent synth-driven soundtrack and the film’s production design that drives home the '80s setting. Such aesthetic trappings could have been disastrous had they been more overt and in-your-face, but Young exercises restraint and the film avoids becoming '80s worship.

Hounds of Love may not be reinventing anything, but it does a great job of breathing life into what is usually a tired horror narrative.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image