It’s a well-known horror premise – a group of friends decide to spend the weekend camping in a creepy looking forest with little more than a few cans of beer for protection, only to find that they are being stalked by a crazed killer with a distaste for campfire songs. This is the initial premise of The Hounds, a seriously low-budget British horror written and directed by Roberto del Piccolo.
Any danger of The Hounds turning into a typical horror bloodbath is destroyed when friends Dave (Paul Tonkin), Martin (John Doughty), Jake (David Drew) and Sarah (Maddie Moate) discover a partially buried corpse and their camping trip turns into a grizzly struggle to escape from the clutches of their tormentor – whoever he/she is. Running alongside this story is alcoholic CID agent Mike, (Andy Callaghan) who is battling with his problematic personal life while searching for an enigmatic gang whose exploits are shrouded in mystery. The narrative flits between the two stories until the final twist in which the connection between them is revealed.
The Hounds is ambitious and has a solid twist that transcends usual low-budget gore-fests. Sadly amateur direction, wooden characters, a cheesy script and an overbearingly tacky horror soundtrack hinder this initial promise. The Hounds lacks propulsion and fails to build up enough tension for the audience to care about what happens next. The story is repetitive and disjointed (although it does come together by the end); Mike’s plotline is an unnecessary addition that doesn’t really lead anywhere. The actors, although not likely to be on the Academy’s Oscar shortlist, clearly have ability that hasn’t been fully tapped into by the director. The characters are wooden and, despite the lengthy set-up, unexplored.
The plot set-up, a common feature in the horror genre, is tedious because the connection between the storylines is completely unexplained. The focus shifts between the friend’s small talk and Mike’s background story and it seems like hours have passed before the main action of the second half begins. Having said this, The Hounds really picks up the pace in the second half and comes into its own with a few horror-staple “jump” moments and some impressive gore, as well as a creepy supernatural element that wouldn’t look out of place in The Evil Dead.
The Hounds has the potential to be a good horror film. The story is original, the special effects are impressive for a low budget film and an ingenious twist is pulled off well, but poor direction and a dubious script really let this film down.