Hounds of Love (2017)

Hounds of Love first published by SciFiNow

1985 saw the release of Kate Bush’s album Hounds of Love, whose B-side comprised a conceptual song cycle (known collectively as The Ninth Wave) about the struggles of a woman fallen overboard. Though set two years later in a working-class suburb of Western Australia’s Perth, Ben Young’s homonymous feature debut is similarly concerned with three women desperate to keep their heads above water.

One is Evelyn (Emma Booth), locked into a toxic relationship with gas-lighting, sociopathic paedophile John (Stephen Curry), and willing to do anything to hold onto John’s love, even if it keeps her from seeing her own estranged children. Another is Maggie (Susie Porter), who has sacrificed an affluent home life and risked her relationship with her own adolescent daughter Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) by liberating herself from an unequal marriage to doctor husband Trevor (Damian de Montemas). The third is Vicki herself, who after sneaking out of Maggie’s new low-rent house one hot summer’s night, has found herself chained to a bed in the home of John and Evelyn, who serially abduct, rape and murder local girls.

Vicki’s efforts to escape her harrowing circumstances place Hounds of Love firmly in the horror genre, but the real monsters here are the systemic abuses of patriarchy, enabling not just John’s manipulative murderousness, but also the more ‘acceptable’ form of economic control that Trevor exercises over the two women in his life. This brings into focus the complex psychological character of Evelyn, no less victim than villain as she facilitates, and even participates in, the most unspeakable of outrages, all in the name of a tainted, illusory love that objectifies women. Vicki’s bondage is also Evelyn’s own, and only together will captor and captive be able to free themselves.

Punctuated with defamiliarising ultra-slomo pans, Hounds of Love forces us to look closer, longer and harder at the hidden minutiae of domestic life, seeing the horrors beneath its shimmering sunny surfaces.

Summary: Sadistic serial killing and women’s liberation in Eighties suburbia.

© Anton Bitel