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Hounds of Love movie review: serial-killer porn

Hounds of Love red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Lurid, pointless thriller teases us with a teenaged girl’s sexual and mortal peril, creating awful suspense around her abuse. Her terror is your titillation.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The bare arms and legs of teen girl athletes, all smooth and tanned, as they run around on a ball court. So enticing! So alluring! Who is watching them? Serial-killer couple Evelyn and John White, their lazy covetous murderous gaze brought to us in slow-motion by screenwriter and director Ben Young. But it’s not the Whites who have slowed down time or chopped off the girls’ faces and heads — we may presume the couple see the girls’ full bodies at regular speed as they sit watching from their parked car nearby; they’re not even close enough to have such a laser-tight focus on limbs alone. No, it’s Young who dehumanizes them, reduces them to body parts.

We do not need to empathize with the blood lust and the sexual lust of serial killers.
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Sure, of course, Young — for some bizarre reason — wants us to identify with the Whites, feel their lust for girls’ bodies, understand that they see the girls as things, not as people. But not only is that appalling and totally uncalled-fortweet — we do not need to share their lust, and anyone who’s not a psychopath should feel icky about the attempt to make us do so — it’s also clearly not just the Whites. For later, as we meet their next victim, high-schooler Vicki, White’s cinematic eye closes in tight on her luscious mouth as she applies lipstick in preparation for the party she will never make it to. There’s no one else in the scene watching her. There is no contextual explanation, not even a wholly inappropriate one, for an objectifying gaze. It’s not Vicki looking at herself. This is all Young’s reductive male gaze rendering her as nothing more than sexy bits.

She’s chained to the bed. Because that’s just realistic.

She’s chained to the bed. Because that’s just realistic.tweet

But Hounds of Lovegod, even the title is atrocioustweet — has only gotten started. Young deploys the mechanics of cinematic suspense, something he clearly has a talent for, in order to tease you with the peril Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) is in. How will she be tricked into Evelyn (Emma Booth: Gods of Egypt, The Boys Are Back) and John’s (Stephen Curry) car? Once they get her back to their house and — you can practically hear Young smacking his lips — chained to the bed, when will she get raped? (The Chekhov’s gun of a dildo surrounded by bloodied tissues, a leftover from the Whites’ previous victim, ensures us that she will eventually.) When will she get murdered? Vicki’s terror — oh my, does she scream a lot — is presented for your titillation.

Boy, male filmmakers sure love fantasizing about women being sexually menaced and victimized.

Boy, male filmmakers sure love fantasizing about women being sexually menaced and victimized.
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Inspired, loosely, by real events in Australia in the 1980s, Hound of Love is a lurid, pointless film that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say.tweet The title is an inexplicable reference to Kate Bush’s 1985 album of the same name: why? That’s a collection of music about women wrestling with love and sex and relationships, and it’s tough to pin anything of the sort to this movie. Vicki has a strained relationship with her divorced mother (Susie Porter: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), but that has absolutely no bearing on her kidnap, rape, or impending murder — no, not even because Vicki was kidnapped after she snuck out of the house against her mom’s orders. Nor does it have an impact on her mother’s attempts to find her daughter once she realizes Vicki is missing. (Dear god, I hope Young, with his feature debut, is not suggesting that there is anything like love in kidnapping and rape.) We’re supposed to see Evelyn as a victim of John herself, somehow in his thrall, a tool he’s using to facilitate his crimes, but none of that is dramatized. It’s spoken of, briefly, psychological prods by Vicki as she attempts to drive a wedge between her captors, but we never understand Evelyn as anything other than a fully willing partner of John’s.

It’s not impossible to make a movie that succeeds in helping us to appreciate why people do terrible things, and in fact 2011’s Snowtown — part of this same subgenre of Australian true-crime drama — manages that with huge empathy and awareness. Though it’s probably worth noting that with that film, a male filmmaker is empathizing with a miserable, hopeless boy drawn into murder. In Hounds, Young’s comprehension for whatever Evelyn might be experiencing never delves any deeper than faux-feminist soundbites, like something he might have read about once in a glossy magazine. Ultimately, there’s little to Evelyn’s position, too, that feels like anything but exploitation for the sake of gruesome entertainment.tweet


red light 1 star

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Hounds of Love (2017) | directed by Ben Young
US/Can release: May 12 2017 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Jul 28 2017

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 18 (sustained sexual threat)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    There’s always a fine line between “look at this thing, it’s horrible” and “look at this thing, hur hur hur” even when the filmmakers are competent and well-intentioned.

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