IN THEATERS (SF) – “Hounds of Love”

Hounds of Love (2017; Dir.: Ben Young)

GRADE: C+

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, May 12, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

Well, that was unpleasant.  A stylish, squirm-inducing thriller from Australian first-timer Ben Young, Hounds of Love stars Ashleigh Cummings as Vicki Maloney, a rebellious teenager abducted from the suburbs by a couple of Mickey and Mallory-style sickos.  Young shows us the m.o. of these slimy abductors (capture, cage, rape, kill, bury) in the opening scenes, so we know exactly the wringer that awaits Vicki, a revelation that only adds to the eventual icky horror.  Set in Perth 1987, perhaps as a nod to the Ozploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s, perhaps as a pointless nostalgic indulgence, the film is gripping but stomach-turning, “effective” in largely the worst possible ways.  The bulk of the film involves the evolving relationship between Vicki and her female captor, a deeply damaged woman turned murder spree accessory by a master manipulator, and Vicki’s attempts to drive the two apart.  That dynamic is fitfully interesting, and Cummings makes for a strong scream queen, but it mostly feels like Young is working out ways to make rape and torture seem badass and suspenseful, which I found extremely grating and gross.  Young’s most recent directing credit comes from a 2012 Australian reality show called Prank Patrol, so…mystery solved?

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