Release Date: July 21, 2017
Director: Damien Power
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 88 Minutes
As a pretty big Australian horror fanboy, it’s always a joyous occasion when a new Aussie tale of terror comes out – even better if it happens to be decent. Damien Power’s woodland thriller Killing Ground is just that, evoking fond memories of the first time I saw Wolf Creek in all its sadistic glory. While it may not be on that level (Wolf Creek landing among my Top 100 favorite horror films), it does pack a lot of dread into a tight narrative.
The plotting in Killing Ground is nothing new- a couple go camping in the bush only to find themselves being hunted by a pair of sadistic rednecks with very ill intentions. What keeps the film fresh aside from its strong visuals is how it tells the story, and the way in which it handles the brutality unfolding on screen.
After the couple, Ian and Sam, played by Ian Meadows and Harriet Dyer, find a barely conscious infant laying on the forest floor, they set out for the hospital, only to be stopped by one of the aforementioned hillbillies played by Aaron Glenane. As the man pretends to aid the couple the film begins flashing back to series of events that brought this infant to the forest alone, and, as if we didn’t already know, show us that indeed the lives of Sam, Ian, and now this child are in great danger. This technique of cutting back and forth from the horror that already took place to the horror that’s about to take place amps up the tension exponentially- we know what’s going to happen to these people, but they have no idea. In a script that’s fairly banal, this structure helps keep the pacing tight while preventing the film from feeling too familiar, even though it is.
It’s a film that bathes in familiarity, but manages to overcome its lack of substance by delivering a tough as nails thriller set against a picturesque backdrop, accented by some solid cinematography by Simon Chapman, who previously did excellent work on The Loved Ones (another fantastic Aussie horror flick) and the recently released The Devil’s Candy. Rather than pulling in close to the acts of horror depicted on screen, the camera keeps us at arm’s length, preferring the use of wide shots. During the film’s more graphic moments we’re focused on the men perpetrating the violence rather than the violence itself, allowing us to not recoil at the sight of something awful, but reflect upon the psychopaths responsible for it.
Killing Ground is another solid Australian horror film that tells a sharp story of depravity, I just wish it had more to say than “Don’t go in the woods.”