Whispered horror stories about what happens when angsty teen girls get into cars with strangers become harrowing, vivid screams in this Australian work of fiction.

While a long setup with extreme close-ups of ordinary actions and mundane objects coming in and out of focus sets the suspenseful scene, Hounds of Love quickly moves into a nail-bitter that had us looking away more than once.

There's a sickly electric energy between partners Evelyn (Emma Booth of Gods of Egypt) and John (Stephen Curry of a bunch of Aussie television shows you've never heard of), and it's just a touchstone for their shared penchant to capture and torture young women on the suburban streets. Evelyn's disarming charm puts the girls at ease—the last time they'll ever feel that way.

We're more than squeamish about the way the story gratuitously rolls around in all the stereotypes of rape culture. The teen victims wear short shorts and school uniform skirts. John is a skinny pervy-looking guy with a mustache. Evelyn's a mousy, pained soul with a need for power. The presentation is graphic enough to burn into memory even after the credits are over. That squinty stare into a dark, dark realm is intended to be unsettling—and it accomplishes that goal.

Young Saudi-born actress Ashleigh Cummings won an award at the Venice International Film Festival last September for her portrayal of teenaged Vicki, and it's a well-deserved accolade, as she's all in for this challenging part in the piece written and directed by Ben Young.

The teen quickly realizes her only chance for survival is to break through to Evelyn—her captor who is, in many ways, a captive herself. Hold your breath for the possibility of a glimmer of empowerment. If the movie poster isn't enough of a trigger warning, let us warn viewers that the film doesn't just hint at sexual violence and emotional abuse.

Oh, and there's a dog, too.


+ Accomplished goal of being unsettling
- Gratuitous sexual violence


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Jean Cocteau Cinema,
108 min