Color, 2016, 108 mins.
Directed by Ben Young
Starring Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson
Arrow Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB HD/PAL), Alive (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Shock (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PAL) / WS (2.40:1) (16:9)

Trying Hounds of Loveto come Hounds of Loveup with a new spin on the idea of a person being held captive in a seemingly normal home has been an issue in horror movies dating back at least to the '60s with The Collector, and since then we've had dozens of variations all the way into the so-called torture porn and home invasion trends. Australia has shown an unusual willingness to twist the idea around in some interesting directions, most notably with The Loved Ones, and Hounds of Love (which doesn't feature the classic, Curse of the Demon-sampling Kate Bush song of the same name, oddly enough) aims to pump in more fresh blood with a yuletide tale of captivity and manipulation.

As the film opens we see the aftermath of a young woman's death in an average suburban home in Perth. A bed outfitted with chains and cuffs indicates something very sinister went down, though the married pair who live there, Evelyn (Booth) and John (Curry), seem oddly nonplussed about the whole process. Meanwhile teenager Vicki (Cummings) sneaks out of her house for a pre-Christmas romantic rendezvous and finds herself in a need of a lift home. She ends up hitching a ride at the behest of Evelyn and, after much sweet talk, decides to go inside for one drink. Naturally Vicki Hounds of Lovequickly winds up drugged and kept captive against her will, which forces her to conspire an escape method and, using her own parents' disintegrating marriage as inspiration, find ways of pitting the unstable Hounds of Lovecouple against each other.

Set in the '80s, the same time period as a real-life crime spree that informed much of this film, Hounds of Love is fairly restrained in terms of actual on-screen brutality and sexual abuse, going for art house territory as much as the traditional horror crowd. It's still harrowing and unpleasant though with enough nastiness on display to turn off some audience members, and the heavy amount of casual nudity from both Booth and Curry gives it an even more uncomfortable edge since we realize what's in store for our unfortunate heroine. Interestingly, the film doesn't go for a terribly heavy retro '80s soundtrack vibe (the much earlier "Nights in White Satin" is the standout track early on, and there's some effective use of Joy Division in the final stretch), and the period decor is sparing but effectively used including some especially queasy beige wallpaper. It isn't a perfect film by any means (you'll be able to guess some of the more predictable turns during the climax miles away), but as a debut feature for director Ben Young and a calling card for its three main performers, it's an impressive piece of work.

Though the film has yet to receive a physical media release in the U.S. (it's currently just available as a VOD title), the U.K. edition from Arrow Video (as separate Blu-ray and DVD releases) is fine one that features Hounds of Lovethe film in a transfer as top notch as you'd expect for a film this recent. The clean, slick look doesn't exactly scream 1987, but it goes make for a technically impressive viewing experience; the DTS-HD 5.1 English track is solid as well (with optional English SDH subtitles), especially when it comes to the very evocative electronic score by Hounds of LoveDan Luscombe. Three separate, EPK-style interviews are included with Curry (4m2s), Booth (4m15s), and Cummings (2m52s) chatting about their characters, with the Booth one being especially interesting as we can see how radically different and more glamorous she normally looks. Speaking of which, an "Emma to Evie Make-up Transformation" (1m11s) shows how her radical transformation was achieved (including a convincing sun-damaged skin effect), while a more general "Behind the Scenes Reel" (5m22s) shows the director and cast at work prepping for a variety of scenes. Some of Young's earlier work is sampled here with the downbeat "Something Fishy" (13m13s) from 2010, about two boy best friends dealing with a nasty twist of fate, and the much rougher "Bush Basher" (15m40s) from 2011. The latter, a harrowing outback coming-of-age tale of sorts, thankfully has a disclaimer at the end noting no animals were harmed since there's a very stomach-churning scene involving a rabbit. The theatrical trailer is also included, but easily the most entertaining extra out of the batch is a John Butler Trio music video for "Only One" (5m31s) directed by Young; without spoiling things, let's just say it involves a lot of blood-spattered zombies in an unusual context.

Reviewed on January 27, 2018.