STARRING: Harriet Dyer, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Aaron Pedersen, Tiarnie Coupland, Ian Meadows.
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Damien Power
There’s something wholly unsettling about horror/thrillers set in the Australian outback, like Killing Ground. Desolate locations combined with a body count that could rival Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers but without the fantastical elements that can keep you from believing that you’re watching a documentary. It creates such a sense of dreadful realism that scares don’t come from things jumping out of nowhere, they come from the awful realisation that this could actually happen.
It must do wonders for Australian tourism.
Off on a romantic camping trip to Gungilee Falls, a gorgeous hiking spot in the outback, Ian (Ian Meadows), an aspiring doctor and his girlfriend, Sam (Harriet Dyer) head off to what is supposed to be a well known but secluded camping spot where they can ring in the new year at the edge of a romantic lake, doing romantic things.
Unbeknownst to them, not only have a family had the same idea and pitched up on their secluded little beach, but the happy campers are about to discover first hand why they haven’t seen their fellow camp mates since they arrived, as a couple of locals decide to get their jollies massacring anyone who has the awful luck of camping out on their little killing ground.
Told across two intertwining timelines that join together somewhere around the beginning of the final third, Killing Ground’s terrifying premise is frighteningly simple. What if that bloke you tripped across and asked for directions from, was actually a mass murderer? And what if you’ve just told him exactly where you’re going to be? It’s a scenario that, once you see it play out on screen, would leave you more than a little uncomfortable talking to locals in the future.
As Sam and Ian are tortured by local nasties German (Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane), it becomes abundantly clear that getting out of this situation unscathed not only isn’t likely, but would probably take an act of several gods to accomplish. Pedersen and Glenna put in such a tremendous performance though, that if it wasn’t for the laundry list of awful things these two are up to and the fact they are complete lunatics, you would be almost tempted to cheer them on. In a “I want the Terminator to win even though he’s the bad guy” kind of way.
In what we’ve come to expect from this particular horror sub-genre, the visuals, particularly the feeling of desolation and loneliness that accompany them are sublime. The location is as much a part of the scares in this brand of fright movie as the guys bloodying up the place are, and that is where this film’s atmosphere and aesthetic from first time feature director Damien Power really shines. You’re alone on the beach, you’re alone on the roads, and you’re all kinds of lost once you start running around in the trees. But the guys wanting to kill you aren’t, it’s their hunting ground.
They don’t want to kill you because you wronged them or their family; they don’t want to kill you because of some ridiculous cult thing, or any other reason from your average horror film. They want to kill you because it’s fun, and they like it. There’s probably not much else to do in a place that only really seems to have lots of secluded camping spots filled with clueless hikers. You have to make the best of your spare time, don’t you?
It’s near impossible to talk about genre entries like Killing Ground without mentioning possibly the most famous, and infamous, addition to the list. And this film wears its Wolf Creek inspiration for us all to see. Like it’s inspiration, Killing Ground doesn’t necessarily fill its run time with gore, big scares or buckets and buckets blood. What it does do, very well, is do some truly horrifying things to normal, everyday people and force us to sit and watch it. It pushes the boundaries of your average genre enthusiast and makes those that aren’t sure what they’re letting themselves in for pay for their ignorance.
You’ve been warned, this one isn’t for the faint hearted. It dances along a line that should leave its audience wondering whether or not they are supposed to be entertained by what they are watching. Whether that is a positive attribute for the film depends solely on the strength of the viewers constitution.
Killing Ground is now on release in selected cinemas across the UK.