My notes on Australian horror movie Killing Ground, which is out in US theatres and VOD. It’s screening in the UK at FrightFest.
If there’s a high concept to Killing Ground, it might be Wolf Creek meets Force Majeure – though, oddly, it doesn’t quite click on the moment that ought to be its turning point, as heroine Sam (Harriet Dyer) realises that her boyfriend Ian (Ian Meadows) didn’t take a courageous, altruistic action she had assumed he did … though this does set up a quiet, creepy enigmatic sign-off to what’s otherwise a well-shot and edited but pretty much redundant exercise in the well-worn and played-out genre of nice, presentable, well-heeled city folks being raped, tortured and killed by scuzzy, lower-class rural idiot blokes.
‘You have to take your opportunities where you find them,’ top-billed beardie Scotty ‘German’ Shepherd says when encouraging his dimmer sidekick Chook (Aaron Glenane) to drag a teenage girl (Tiarnie Coupland) out of a car for rape and other torments, including a William Tell shoot-the-can-off-the-head game played with her parents (Stephen Hinter, Maya Stange) and summary execution. That’s all the motivation we get, and the low-rent dolts – who fall out, and even injure each other – are presented as both fearsomely inescapable murderers and completely useless losers.
The odd structure has Sam and Ian show up to camp by a lake on an Aussie New Year’s Eve and be mildly-puzzled at the abandoned car and tent nearby, though we get snippet flashbacks to the family who were here just after Christmas having their own tiny character beats – the teenager has night terrors – which get tossed away when they become victims to the local petty crook layabout psychos. In the flashbacks, German is the senior maniac, egging his less experienced pal along and then more concerned with covering tracks to get away with it … but, when Sam and Ian find a baby left behind by the dead folks, it’s Chook who eagerly sets out, leaving a ‘gone hunting’ message to have another go at rape and murder and German who follows (perhaps having made a New Year’s resolution not to go to jail) to calm him down, only to be mistaken for the fleeing Ian and winged.
The performances are good and as usual Australian scenery adds to the threatening atmosphere, but we’ve really been over this bloody ground too many times … and the last act, which is cluttered with an inept police intervention and character development for the normal couple that takes place when it’s too dark to notice, doesn’t have any sort of payoff to justify lifting this particular rock yet again. Written and directed by Damien Power.