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Graphic horror is nothing new and as decades past and audiences become desensitized, filmmakers of the genre push to the extreme not just gore, but the new frontier, suffering. Killing Ground, whose title alone hints at what’s to come is another in the lot, an Australian horror film that takes to task the details of such in a film of survival that is immediately familiar if not sometimes compelling.
Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are heading to a weekend camping trip for a New Year’s vacation. They arrive at Gungilee Falls, an isolated camping area they hoped would be clear of people, but discover a tent and campsite is already up, though there are no signs of any people, however after night falls, begin to suspect something isn’t right. Meanwhile, drunk, local thugs Chook (Aaron Glenane) and German (Aaron Pederson), who delight in causing trouble and harassing girls are looking for more and drop in on the site, having already visited upon the previous campers.
Written and directed by Damien Power, in his feature length debut, Killing Ground relies on the many standards of the genre, transposing the American backcountry hillbilly loonies to the woods of Australia. It’s a narratively disjointed film, with two stories days apart shown at the same time, building a mystery between them. It generally works and is the movie’s cleverest twist, keeping the viewer a little unstable. We witness two distinct camping experiences tied together by Chook and German even though the couple and the family never meet they are inextricably linked. The first half of the film is set-up and slowly pieces the two stories together with the spaces between getting smaller as they eventually collide. The remainder of the film is much harder to watch as Chook and German toy with and torture their victims.
Power tries to put the two thugs at odds with one a bit more reluctant but it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to know what Power is trying to say, a cinematic treatise on violent films themselves or a contribution to them. A few careful themes are hinted at which might suggest the first, and there’s no doubt that the lack of purpose in the immoral actions of Chook and German can be seen as a commentary on a growing apathy towards violence modern culture has found itself in with media taking to giving shootings and terror the run of the lot, but the line, if there is one, remains ever so slim. The takeaway is nonetheless far from impactful, mostly from its static presentation, one that builds to a predictable end, though one perhaps inevitable. Perhaps most interesting about it all though is a single moment between Sam and Ian that tests their relationship and hints to something far worse than the killers themselves.
Killing Ground has lots of good company in the genre it settles in and while it hardly has the staying power of some of the greats that have defined this kind of backwoods horror, fans might still appreciate the effort. It’s nothing new, but what is these days?
Movie description: Killing Ground is a 2017 horror film about a couples' camping trip that turns into a frightening ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a horrific crime.
Director(s): Damien Power
Actor(s): Harriet Dyer, Tiarnie Coupland, Aaron Pedersen