J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tribeca ’17: Hounds of Love

If Vicki Maloney had paid more mind to her mother, she would not be in this spot. Unfortunately, she snuck out when she was grounded and got into a car with strange people. We can only hope she was wearing clean underwear, because there is a very good chance she could end up dead in Ben Young’s Hounds of Love (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Maloney and her mother Maggie would be arguing like cats and dogs anyway, because that is what mothers and teen daughters do. However, her parents’ separation only makes matters worse, especially since her more financially secure father Trevor is so good at playing the abandonment card. Tragically, Maloney brief lapse of judgement might be fatal. It is clear John and Evelyn White have abducted, terrorized, and murdered a number of girls before her. Yet, even amid the horrors she endures, Maloney picks up on tensions between her tormentors. She has darn good reason to believe the manipulative John has been playing his needy wife and she can tell the more passive captor is starting to suspect it too.

Meanwhile, the Perth coppers are so unhelpful, they might as well be considered accomplices. However, the alarmed Maggie is in her fiercest mothering mode and will not be intimidated into waiting at home for Vicki to call. Old Trevor largely agrees with her, but he lacks her forcefulness. Basically, they are on their own, with the clock ticking.

It seems like abduction-captivity thrillers just keep getting increasingly more sadistic and disturbing. To be frank, Hounds continues the trend, but it also has redemptive substance to go with the unsettling cruelty. It sounds like a shameless pull-quote, but the third act climax really is so tense you can hardly breathe.

As John White, Stephen Curry creates a chilling portrait of clammy, calculating evil. In the potential victim role, Ashleigh Cummings gives a bravely exposed and vulnerable performance, but the real heart and soul of the film comes from Susie Porter’s defiantly haunting turn as Mother Maggie. In contrast, the arrested emotional development of Emma Booth’s Evelyn White does not always ring true, but her pathological codependency is generally credible enough to cover for it.

The sunny Australian Christmas season is also rather feverishly disorienting, like the original Die Hard transferred to a suburban dungeon. The 1980s period details are also spot-on. It is quite a distinctive way for Young, a TV and short film director, to announce his feature arrival. Recommended for fans of dark, provocative thrillers, Hounds of Love screens again this Monday (4/24) and Tuesday (4/25), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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