An apt quote at the start of Killing Ground should be – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here – because you rarely get a glimpse into such a terrifying snippet of hell.
On first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that Killing Ground will be a Wolf Creek knock off. All the elements are there, Australian bush setting, innocents lining up for the meat grinder and remorseless killers. Those thoughts should be eschewed as the film takes you on a different trip with varying perspectives and some truly shocking moments.
When Sam (Dyer) and Ian (Meadows) go camping they set up a small distance away from another group of campers. They soon come to realise that the other camp site is empty and that they could be in trouble. The film then switches between Sam and Chris and the fate of the family that was in the camp site. Killing Ground also spends time with the killers, the unhinged Chook (Aaron Glenane) and the psychopathic German (Aaron Pedersen) which is a bold move, showing the killers not as one note bad guys but just the ordinariness of their lives. Just like you or I, these killers have jobs, sleep in, go to the pub and are regular people, if not a little on the ‘rough’ side. This makes their urges to kill all the more dread inducing. They act like regular humans but have a lust for the kill inside them.
All the cast do stellar jobs, selling their characters, because you spend a bit of time with the characters who are just being rather than doing, this really makes you connect with them and it heightens the danger for the audience when they are in peril. Harriet Dyer in particular is fantastic, I won’t go into spoiler territory but her performance in the 3rd act of the film considering what happens to her character mentally is phenomenal.
Writer and Director Damien Power has crafted a story that asks questions of its audience as well as the characters. As the film flips from the past to the present and slides back and forth between these timelines it just serves to heighten the tension. Power has made a film that is part survival horror, part psychological horror/drama all filtered through the question of – What Would You Do?
The film isn’t as graphic as similar rural, survival horror flicks but as per usual your mind can always think of worse things than what we are or in this case aren’t being shown on screen. What it lacks in graphic violence it makes up for in dread. For a good portion of the film just after things go bad for Sam and Ian, you think that this will end in an uninventive by the numbers way. However, there is a shocking act of violence that I wasn’t expecting which totally caught me off guard and it keeps you off kilter for the rest of the film. The film’s ending offers no real release either, no feeling that despite the ordeal everything might just be ok, in a film that doesn’t offer much in the way of hope, the ending totally extinguishes it and brings forth the notion that survival isn’t necessarily winning. Surviving is something to endure as well.
Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78
Images: Katrina Wan PR