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Film / Hounds of Love

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Hounds of Love is a 2016 Australian crime thriller/horror, directed by Ben Young in his directorial debut. Loosely based on real-life crimes, it concerns a teenage girl in suburban, 1980s Perth who finds herself held captive by a pair of serial killers. Knowing they intend to make her their next victim, Vicki must use her wits and drive a wedge between the couple in order to survive. Meanwhile, her family desperately searches for her with no aid from the police.

Not to be confused with the Kate Bush album of the same name, which inspired the film title.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Awful Wedded Life: During Vicki's captivity, Evelyn grows disillusioned with John and realizes that she's under his thumb, too. When she threatens suicide out of jealousy, he doesn't even care.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Vicki attempts to escape out of the bathroom window when John and Evelyn are distracted, but Lou-Lou blocks the way and forces her to take another route. At the end of the film, she escapes this way successfully.
  • Blatant Lies: John insists to Evelyn that he wasn't trying to rape Vicki (as they only torture victims "together"), despite the fact that she saw him running out of her room naked. He also tells Evelyn that it's a good thing that he killed Lou-Lou, as it gives them a chance to work on getting her children back, something that will pretty clearly never happen.
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  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Downplayed. Vicki loves her father and isn't truly a brat, but she resents her mother for what she views as abandoning the family. As such, she has no interest in spending time with her or respecting her authority. When she sees a picture of the family together in her diary, she becomes heartbroken and rips her mother out of the photo.
  • Break the Cutie: Vicki is put through hell. She does her best to stay upright, but a vicious (offscreen) rape and torture session from the couple breaks her spirit so much that she's ready to die, forced to take pills by Evelyn and writing out a final faked letter to her loved ones, claiming she's in another city. Fortunately, she gets her spirit back.
  • The Cavalry: Subverted. Right when Vicki's spirit is completely broken and she's ready to die, her loved ones decode her message and show up at the address... but since Evelyn steals mail, Vicki coded the wrong address, and they end up across the street, unable to find her. Fortunately, the Chekhov's Gunman allows her to hear her mother screaming her name, which rallies her strength and courage enough to stand up to Evelyn and survive.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: John meets his drug dealer at the corner store, who threatens him over his debts. He shows up at the end to collect his money, and though he doesn't discover Vicki, he coincidentally holds the door open as Vicki's family arrives so she can hear them and realize they're just outside.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Vicki and her boyfriend send simple coded messages to each other. When she's allowed to write a letter to her family to stop them from searching for her, she codes what she believes to be their address into her message.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Though Evelyn helps John procure his young, female victims, she can't stand the thought of him actually preferring them over her, who has aged out of his bracket. John makes it clear he likes Vicki even more than his other victims, which makes Evelyn spiral further into insecurity and frustration, going so far as to dress in Vicki's clothes and use her makeup in a failed bid to seduce him.
  • Daylight Horror: A lot of John and Evelyn's preying occurs in broad daylight, and the first onscreen victim is kidnapped in the middle of the day. Due to the short timespan of the film, much of Vicki's ordeal (such as her first escape) happen in the daytime as well.
  • Determinator:
    • Vicki will not give up and constantly tries to find ways to escape or trick her captors.
    • Maggie is even more driven to find Vicki as she feels guilty that she contributed to the ordeal by driving Vicki away the night she disappeared. When Vicki's father and boyfriend reluctantly leave the address where Vicki coded her message after realizing she's not there, Maggie refuses to go, desperately screaming her daughter's name.
  • The Dog Bites Back: As John attempts to murder Vicki, Evelyn — finally breaking free from his abusive hold and moved by Vicki's mother searching for her — stabs him repeatedly.
  • Downer Beginning: The film opens with John and Evelyn abducting a teenager, holding her captive for rape and torture before John murders her and buries her body in the woods. By the time Vicki is established as the protagonist, it's clear how high the stakes are.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being abducted, held captive, raped, tortured, and nearly killed, Vicki manages to turn Evelyn against John and escape, reunited with her loved ones in the final frames.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over the course of a single weekend, as John and Evelyn's modus operandi is to abduct a girl, hold her captive for the weekend, and murder her on Monday.
  • Foreshadowing: When Evelyn fights with a neighbor, she brings up that he illegally bootlegs videos, and he angrily tells her to stop going through his mail. Since Vicki coded her message based on address she glimpsed in their kitchen, it's clear her message won't go through as planned.
  • Hope Spot: Vicki attempts an escape early in her captivity, but she's caught and dragged back. A neighbor hears her scream for help and confronts Evelyn, threatening to call the police, but he's easily driven back.
  • I Shall Taunt You: After Vicki is rallied back into survival mode, she taunts Evelyn, who is holding a knife on her, to just stab her instead of forcing her to overdose on pills. When Evelyn hesitates, Vicki realizes she can't do it and taunts her for being a coward and not a killer. Of course, this leads John, who is, to try and strangle her.
  • Lost Pet Grievance: When John kills Lou-Lou, Evelyn's Replacement Goldfish for her children, she's absolutely distraught... and the event is a driving force for her finally turning against him.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Downplayed with Vicki. Though the film is often sold as an ordeal where Vicki must turn the couple against each other, her real attempts at trying to convince Evelyn to free her and that John is a monster are pretty realistic for someone in that situation. Furthermore, she rarely speaks to John directly and she has nothing to do with his attraction to her, for which Evelyn begins to resent him.
    • John and Evelyn are straighter examples, with Evelyn usually being the one to manipulate and convince their victims, and John manipulating Evelyn to keep her under his control by feeding her lies and false promises.
  • May–December Romance: John is older than Evelyn and met her when she was much younger; of course, John continued to be attracted to young women.
  • Mirror Character: Evelyn, a mother, shows signs early on of identifying with Maggie, even taunting and haranguing Vicki for not appreciating her enough. When Vicki's loved ones show up to look for her, Evelyn hears Maggie scream for Vicki as she says she just wants her daughter back. This stops her cold and forces her to empathize with Vicki, as Evelyn herself is missing her children and just wants them back.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Subverted with Vicki's mother, Maggie, who tries to be involved with her life, but Vicki views her leaving the family as tacit abandonment. It's unknown why her parents divorced (though it's clear it wasn't an ugly divorce), but it's implied that she wanted to be independent again, a motivation that Vicki resents. One of the main points of the plot is Vicki making amends with her mother and realizing that Maggie will never abandon or give up on her.
    • Played straight with Evelyn, whose kids have been taken away; it's clear she hasn't seen them in quite some time and her family is opposed to them having any kind of contact.
  • Never Trust a Title: Besides the title being inspired by Kate Bush, there are a couple of dogs in this film, but they don't have much to do with the plot.
  • Police Are Useless: The police treat Vicki's disappearance flippantly, insisting to her parents that she's just a runaway. When Vicki's father observes a board full of missing persons posters of young women (many, if not most/all, are presumably Evelyn and John's past victims), they brush all of them off as runaways as well. When they decipher Vicki's coded message, they refuse to take action, leaving Vicki's loved ones to try to find her themselves.
  • Post-Rape Taunt: Evelyn taunts Vicki after her torturous night and threatens a second bout later that day.
  • Potty Failure: This happens to poor Vicki twice: she wets the bed after her first night in captivity and accidentally defecates when John first tries to rape her.
  • Rape as Drama: The horrifying ordeal that John's victims endure includes regular rape from both him and a participating Evelyn.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Along with Gory Discretion Shot, none of John and Evelyn's violence is shown onscreen, but the disturbing atmosphere and context clues leave little to the imagination anyway.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Double subverted. Vicki escapes as John lays dying, but Evelyn appears with a knife to block her path. Vicki hesitates for a moment... but keeps going forward when she spots her family's van in the distance, and Evelyn lets her pass unharmed.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Lou-Lou, Evelyn's dog, pretty obviously exists as a replacement for Evelyn's estranged children. Vicki tries to leverage this with Evelyn to turn her against John, who bought the dog for her.
  • Road Apples: Lou-Lou frequently defecates in the house, which infuriates John and eventually leads him to kill her.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Evelyn invites Vicki inside while they're waiting for John to get her drugs, which lets them drug her drink, then take her prisoner.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Downplayed. While getting into a car with strangers and letting them drive you back to their house for a drink would be a parade of red flags for a modern-day viewer, the film leans into the illusion of safety that permeated the 80s. Vicki herself attempts to maintain boundaries with the couple at first, only giving in because she spots a child seat in their car (which might have influenced past victims as well) and because she thought she was bonding with Evelyn.
  • Tough Love: Maggie knows Vicki didn't write her own essay and refuses to let her attend a party, and expects her to be a good student and spend time with her on one of their few weekends together. Vicki defiantly sneaks out to the party anyway, leading to her abduction. Evelyn taunts her with this later, reminding her that her mother was just looking out for her and if she'd listened to Maggie, she wouldn't have been kidnapped.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The villains are a married couple who abduct young woman and hold them captive for rape and torture before murdering them and burying them in a shallow grave. Charming. Vicki learns, however, that their marriage is less than ideal, and though Evelyn joins John in the crimes for a "bonding" activity, she's jealous of John's fixation with his victims and he really runs the show.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The plot is based on the crimes of David and Catherine Birnie, a couple in suburban Perth who, in the 80s, abducted women, chained them to the bed in their home, and raped/tortured them before murdering them; they were foiled by their final would-be victim, a teenager who managed to escape. In real life, however, their victims spanned a larger range of ages, their activities were sometimes so bizarre it would have been almost unrealistic to portray them, and Catherine took a much more active and vicious role in the crimes (to the point where the survivor called her the puppetmaster, in contrast to the film, where John has Evelyn under his control).note 
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: A rare gender-swapped variant. Vicki's father has majority custody, with her mother having a few weekends. The plot begins when Vicki leaves his stunning home to go to her mother's much smaller, cheaper house in the suburbs.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Evelyn isn't entirely stable, but she can do a lot better than an abusive, manipulative, murderous killer-rapist pedophile. It's implied that he groomed her after retaliating against her abusive ex, which is why she's latched onto him.
  • Would Hurt a Child: John and Evelyn target teenagers, and John is heavily implied to be the reason that Evelyn can't see her children anymore.
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