Content warning: Abduction, abuse, rape.
Hounds of Love is the debut feature from Australian writer/director Ben Young and another I'd heard whispers about from the festival circuit. It's been floating around on the edges of my radar ever since. There's a special kind of thrill when a movie you've had your eye on for a long while appears on a streaming service.
Supposedly based on several different true crime stories (I thought it echoed Fred and Rose West quite a lot) it most closely resembles the real-life experiences of Kate Moir, and her abduction and abuse by David and Catherine Birnie in Perth, Western Australia.
Like the Birnies, Evelyn and John White (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry) have a disturbing, mutually fucked up and co-dependent hobby of kidnapping, raping and murdering young girls.
Their latest victim and the one whose story we see unfold in full is Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings), who almost immediately spots the weaknesses in the White's relationship. John, a rapist and probable paedophile with a violent temper, needs Evelyn's help to abduct and deal with the girls; Evelyn, seemingly a victim of abuse from an early age herself, is damaged and manipulated to the point of believing these horrifying deeds count as acts of love. There's an awful lot of awful stuff going on behind the closed doors of this house.
Maybe it's my true crime obsession showing, or that my resistance to bleakness is pretty high, but I didn't find this as soul-crushing as others seemed to (want bleak Australian realism/nihilism? May I suggest The Snowtown Murders. Note "suggest" and not "recommend").
Hounds of Love is some of the worst of what humans are capable of, shown convincingly and without exploitation (at least in tone, as Kate Moir has gone on record as saying she was upset at the startling similarities). All three leads are incredibly strong, with a special mention for Cummings, who manages to convey so much when most of the time she's bound and gagged.
Young's vision for this is pretty spectacular, given it was shot in 20 days and was his first feature. He knows what to linger on: the stillness, hopelessness, the surrounding suburban normality; and what is going to be more upsetting to imply than outright show: the detritus left after a rape, the killing of a dog ☹. The cinematography (hat tip to Michael McDermott) is beautiful, dare I say it. It's as stunning as the subject matter is stomach-churning, looking almost fashion editorial/music video perfect in some moments.
It's not without a problematic cloud around it, but if you don't mind that and feeling like your heart is in your throat for 90mins, it's streaming on Hulu now.