“Hounds of Love,” a kidnapping crime drama set in 1987 Perth, Australia, bears a passing similarity to “The Square,” an Aussie thriller from 2008. Both juxtapose the stereotypical images of a northern-hemisphere Christmas with the sunny, sweaty reality of the holidays Down Under.
This disconnect provides an intriguing and disorienting sense of place to this terrific exercise in close-quarters, psychological tension.
Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings, TV’s “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”) is a bored high-school student angry with her mom (Susie Porter) for leaving her well-off, surgeon dad (Damian de Montemas) and taking her to live in relative lower-middle-class squalor in one of Perth’s less picturesque neighborhoods.
So when she rebels by putting on her shortest skirt and sneaking out of the house to walk to a party, she’s susceptible to the invitation of a couple driving by — John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (a fantastic Emma Booth) — to give her a lift.
Big mistake. The torture and killing of young girls is the electricity that fuels John and Evelyn’s exceedingly dysfunctional and dangerous relationship. But, instead of just being a victim, Vicki tries to manipulate their emotional troubles as a wedge to drive them apart and maybe get a chance to escape.
Not only does first-time features director/writer Ben Young get strong performances from his cast, he shows off a smart sense of movement and pacing. Be warned: Though Young doesn’t actually show much violence, the implication of violence against girls and animals may be too much for some.
Still, “Hounds of Love” has plenty of both bark and bite.
(At Screenland Tapcade.)
‘Hounds of Love’
Not rated. Time: 1:48.