If you’re looking for great horror and suspense, I’ve always said to look for something coming out of Australia. I’m not sure what it is about their films, but when it comes to horror that is intense without always having to be overly graphic, they’ve got the finer points worked out. Hounds of Love is no exception to that rule, and this is easily the most disturbing, tense, uncomfortable, and brutal horror film out there. The fact that almost no blood is spilled and virtually none of the brutal violence is shown onscreen proves that true horror is what we imagine, and not what we’re shown.

Dealing with her parent’s recent separation, 17-year-old Vicki Maloney (Ashleigh Cummings) decides to sneak out of her mother’s house to attend a party. On her way there, she’s stopped on the street by Evelyn (Emma Booth) and her husband John (Stephen Curry), who offer to sell her some weed. They eventually convince her to head to their house, which isn’t far, so they can pick it up. Once there, Vicki is drugged and chained to a bed, becoming a sex slave for the depraved couple. While she tries desperately to find a way out, Vicki sees that Evelyn is starting to become tired of John and his violent ways, and that exploiting this break in the couple my be her means of escape.

Hounds of Love, the feature length debut of writer/director Ben Young is an absolutely amazing and disturbing piece of genre work. It’s certainly not going to be for everybody, as the concept of Vicki becoming a sex slave is enough to turn some viewers away, but Young manages to leave the truly despicable acts up to our own imagination. Truthfully, there are only two moments where we have to wonder what’s going on. Pure luck and some careful calculation keeps Vicki from having to deal with many of the horrible actions Evelyn and John have planned for her, but the sheer tension that builds to these moments, whether they happen or not, is frequently unbearable.

While not everybody would think a near panic attack would be a compliment for a film, when it comes to the horror and suspense genre, I call that a win. A brilliant soundtrack that fills many of the tense moments like an incoming lightning storm, the slow and careful camera movements, and the incredibly nuanced performances of Cummings, Booth and Curry, create scenes that will leave you gasping for air.

It’s also impressive that Young allows the characters to tell their story. We don’t need dialogue to tell us how Evelyn is feeling with John. We can see it in her face. We also are able to see why John finds such pleasure in his abusive and torturous behaviour with one simple scene when John is confronted by his drug dealer for money he owes him. John doesn’t have to explain it to a character for the audience to ‘get it.’ We can obtain all that information by something as simple as watching two characters interact for a moment.

The nearly static camera also drops you directly into each moment of Hounds of Love, leaving you desperate to reach out and help. Just thinking about the movie gets my heart pumping, and you’ll wish you could step in and do something to save not only Vicki, but Evelyn as well. While Vicki is certainly the biggest victim here, there’s no doubt that Evelyn has been a victim of John’s for years, and her behaviour has become the only way for her to survive. It’s no excuse, and you’ll surely want Evelyn to get what’s coming to her, but Young crafts a film where even someone as evil as Evelyn can evoke an emotional response from the audience beyond just disgust.

Again, Hounds of Love is not going to be for everybody. While its violence is almost never shown to the audience, that actually makes things a little worse. You will be uncomfortable, you will be disturbed, but horror fans will love every second of the film. Just be sure to take a deep breath before you step into the theatre.