Hounded first published by VODzilla.co
‘Tradition’ is a word that gets bandied about a lot in Tommy Boulding’s feature debut Hounded, written by Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines. There are the traditions, passed down patriarchally from father to son, of England’s landed gentry going back centuries if not millennia, and ensuring that everybody stays in their ‘rightful’ place. There are the traditions of the hunt, where certain codes must be followed or everything falls apart and the civilised can no longer be easily distinguished from their animal quarry. And then there is the more recent, entirely cinematic tradition that sees people breaking into a house with criminal intent, only to be confronted with something every bit as malicious as themselves. For films like Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs (1991), Mike Mendez’s Killers (1996), Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs (2008), Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector (2009), Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s Livid (2011), Adam Schindler’s Intruders (aka Shut In, 2015), Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe (2016), Dean Devlin’s Bad Samaritan (2018), Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco’s The Night Sitter (2018), Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains (2019) and Julius Berg’s The Owners (2020), all feature home invaders coming into violent collision with the forces of genre.
In Hounded, the burglars are Leon (Nobuse Junior), his younger brother Chaz (Malachi Pullar-Latchman), and their career criminal friends Vix (Hannah Traylen) and Tod (Ross Coles), who commit country-house robberies to order for antiques dealer Gregory (Larry Lamb) in London. Having made enough money to pay Chaz’s university fees, Leon is ready to call it a day – but the four are persuaded to take ‘one last job’, stealing a ceremonial knife from the palatial Redwick Estate, only to find that they have walked into a trap – and now they are the human quarry, being hunted, with horse and hounds, by lady of the house Katherine (Samantha Bond), her old uncle Remington (James Faulkner), her brother Hugo (James Lance) and his son Miles (Louis Walwyn) across the huge Redwick property.
Like Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s The Most Dangerous Game (1932) or Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort (1981) relocated to the English shires, or even like James Watkins’ Eden Lake (2008) with its social poles inverted, Hounded places the class conflict that is so central to British society into an arena of entertainment associated almost exclusively with England’s monied élites. For the fox hunt, in which a team of riders and a pack of hounds track down a small wild animal for ‘sport’, is here made to emblematise how loaded are the dice against those whom the privileged choose as their playthings and treat like animals. Yet as the four fugitives grasp the enormity of their predicament, Leon tells Chaz drily, “At least we’re off the manor”, to which Chaz responds, “I was thinking we’re not, though.” For although the hunters and hunted here obviously belong to very different social strata (not to mention different ethnic pedigrees), parallels are constantly drawn between the two groups. After all, both come in fours, both live in a ‘manor’ on an ‘estate’, and long before Leon and his gang are being chased by hunting hounds out in the country, we can already hear dogs barking in the background of the Peckham social housing that is their home. Much as Chaz is ‘popping his cherry’ during the burglary by entering the house rather than just waiting outside as lookout in the van, young Miles is also “turning into a man” as he is initiated into the way of the hunt and duly blooded. When Remington patronisingly underestimates Vix’s way around a shotgun, she has to remind him, “There’s more guns on my estate than there is on yours.” The London crew may be at a distinct disadvantage in the fields and farmhouses, way off their turf, but a whole lifetime of discrimination, persecution, abuse and urban oppression has more than prepared them for what is coming their way.
Nobody really emerges from Hounded looking entirely pretty, but for all the country clan’s claims to superiority, they find themselves outclassed time and time again, when it comes to nobility of action, by the very people whom they despise. It is a picture of social iniquity and the rigged system of class that, in Britain, has long been the dogged tradition – and it ends in a modest, if meaningful, redistribution of wealth, and with one of the hunted turned hunter and himself stalking prey and seeking justice back in his natural urban environment.
summary: Tommy Boulding’s class-conscious thriller pits dogs against underdogs in the uneven social landscape of the English country(side)