Saturday, May 20, 2017

'Hounds of Love' Is a Horrifying, Uncomfortable Watch

Hounds of Love is an Australian crime horror film set in mid-1980’s suburban Perth about a sadistic, murderous couple who abduct young girls to torture and ultimately kill.  Vicki, who has sneaked out from her house to go to a party, becomes their latest victim.  Chained on a bed, the horrified teen must observe her captors and figure out a way to drive a wedge between them before they get around to murdering her.

Prior Hounds of Love, the last Australian horror film I had seen was The Loved Ones.  Or the zombie film Wyrmwood, if you can count that as a horror film.  Either way, I found them to be unique, interesting, and well-crafted, and they left me the impression that the Aussies seem to have an aptitude for making fun, macabre movies.  Thus, my expectation is for Hounds of Love to be as good as those.  More so when I saw that critics are highly praising it in Rotten Tomatoes.

With such a premise, it indeed turns out being a horrifying, twisted film.  Most of the brutal violence is kept off screen.  But the performances are believable, tension is expertly handled, and visual hints and nuance implications are provided before and after squeamish happenings, that whatever disturbing event unfolded off screen is successfully painted for the imagination.  As a result, it’s as cringing to watch as visually brutal “torture porn” movies.   In fact, maybe even more so.  I’ve watched all Saw movies, and the franchise’s excessive use of gore is so cartoonish that it barely unsettles anymore.
Still, I don’t get why it’s critically acclaimed.  The acting is intense, yes.  The direction is steady, yes.  But the story doesn’t have any actual punch.  There are no surprises.  There’s no “revenge plot” angle.  There’s no gratifying poetic justice.  There’s no long-term psychological stimulation.  There’s no thoughtful, emphatic message (aside from, maybe, the 80’s was an “innocent” time; everyone is so trusting.  So the lesson: be always on guard, do not talk to strangers.  Is that it?    But we are now in the 21st century.  That should already be a common understanding by now).

In the end, after going through such uncomfortable watch, there was no worthwhile payoff to be had.  At least, per my experience with it.

As a film, Hounds of Love is technically solid and competently made, I’ll give it that.  But it’s far from being as fresh and noteworthy as The Loved Ones or Wyrmwood.

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