Hounddog deserves to be known as The Dakota Fanning Rape Movie because that’s all there is to this prurient Southern Gothic about a girl whose hips, per Elvis Presley, are made for fucking. Suggesting a Black Snake Moan origin story as conceived by Blanche Devereaux, the film presents life in the South as a succession of tawdry clichés. With tongue lolling madly about like Heath Ledger’s Joker, writer-director Deborah Kampmeier is hellbent on giving audiences the vapors, letting us know right away where her mind is at by intercutting a dog baring its teeth inside a chicken coop with Stranger Lady (Robin Wright Penn) getting butt-fucked by Daddy (David Morse) in the adjacent house. Next day, Daddy will shoot the mangy mutt dead, setting into motion Kampmeier’s musical-chaired fixation with the ties of family and friendship: Daddy will leave his daughter, Lewellen (Fanning), behind with Stranger Lady for destinations unknown, but when Wright Penn’s angst-ridden cipher also vamooses, Lewellen goes to Grammie (Piper Laurie), who sends her back to Daddy when he returns out of the blue, staying put this time after a bolt of lightning reduces him to a sadder sack of shit than he was before.
Doused in a swanky veneer, with cicadas and spirituals hogging the soundtrack and Laurie recycling her crazed religious shtick from Carrie, Hounddog gets its sick jollies from audiences trying to guess who’s going to force himself on Lewellen: the Daddy who can no longer remember his real name and who funnily cuts his hair in homage to his little girl’s, the town’s pimply-faced milkboy, or, God forbid, the sage black man who seems to exist for no reason other than to voice Kampmeier’s compendium of Southern-fried themes. There’s lots of talk about possession, emptiness and whites appropriating the blues, but none of it feels digested by the actual story. That’s because Kampmeier’s hamfisted style, from her trite delineation of the spiritual and emotional lives of Southern classes to her obligatory pairing of apple and gloppy snake imagery, refuses to let Hounddog transcend the level of a cartoon or V.C. Andrews paperback.