The Hounds sounded awesome. After all, who DOESN’T love a film about three inexperienced campers wandering headfirst into a wooded area rife with sexual innuendo, reanimated corpses and the ever-present threat of dismemberment? In fact, this sounded like a horror movie with more potential than a promising young choirboy (complete with five straight As at A-level) heading off for his first term at Oxford University.
But, as ever, potential can be misplaced. The young choirboy can fall in with a bad crowd, shave his head, tattoo his eyelids and drop out of university to marry his pregnant cousin. And that awesome-sounding horror film can fall foul of terrible acting, a confused director and the sort of script you’d use to toilet train your weak-bladdered puppy.
Jake (Drew), Sarah (Moate), Martin (Doughty) and Dave (Tonkin) are four pals who meet at their local pub for a drink every Friday night. And, on this occasion, they plan an impromptu camping holiday for the very next morning. They arrive at the (not at all ominous) woods short of Martin, who is conveniently sleeping off a hangover somewhere for much of the film, and quickly get to grips with a) the fact that Dave has been to these woods before, b) Jake and Sarah desperately wanting to have awkward sex the minute the tent goes up and c) the dead body they’ve found protruding from the ground, just seconds from their new canvas homes. Yes, fine; it’s a little awkward that they didn’t notice the lifeless arm flopping around during the hour or so it took them to put the tent up, but we’ll let this one slide. For now.
The first issue with this film isn’t the just-out-of-drama-school acting (think Emma Watson in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone) – it’s the fact that we have no idea who our protagonist is. Is it Martin, who appears on screen first and appears to be suffering from an inconvenient form of narcolepsy? Is it Dave, who miserably recalls a previous time in these woods, complete with a mysteriously absent ex-girlfriend? Is it Mike (Callaghan), the police officer suffering from traumatic flashbacks? Or is it Sarah, who happily recalls ominous dreams and foreboding psychic visions like there’s no tomorrow? We have no idea. And it soon becomes apparent that our director doesn’t know either; he barely knows what genre he’s working with, let alone his primary story arc.
One can only assume the script was penned by Dr Wordenstein, hashing together pieces of a badly-written cop drama with a supernatural / slasher horror film. Every now and then you’ll find yourself being unwittingly drawn into the jerky zombie-ghost-monster scenes before suddenly finding yourself, blinking and confused, in the city with Mike, a troubled and alcoholic police officer. It’s a little bit like someone sat on the remote, flicking you between two movies incessantly, until the final “twist” ending reveals the tenuous connections between the two.
The sound effects are all over the place – avid lip-readers will find themselves in their element as our characters quietly begin mubling through their lines – but the attempts at hardcore gore and spatter are, honestly, pretty good. Too bad you’ve seen every single one of them in the trailer already, eh? Throw in some horrendous dialogue (nobody should ever utter the words “oh my love!” after miming the universally-acknowledged sign for “big jugs”), a host of tell-not-show moments (put the gun down, small child of flashback-scene) and a poorly executed warning about leaving your drinks unattended in clubs.
In short, do not – I repeat, do not – watch The Hounds; however, if you choose to ignore my advice, don’t come crying to me when you find yourself utterly bemused and wildly dissatisfied. I’m never too busy to pull myself away from whatever important task I’m carrying out to throw a well-timed ‘I told you so’ in your direction…