Killing Ground Film Review by Zobo With A Shotgun
There’s this thing about Australian horror films, and it generally runs true; they are bleak and they are brutal. Admittedly, this isn’t always going to be the rule of thumb but those recognisable and memorable ones, it definitely is. For the most part, the bleakness works in the films favours, with films like Snowtown and Hounds of Love, and the brutal aspect always captures the hearts of the horror audience, as seen with Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek. The emotional rollercoaster that is Killing Ground is no different and follows in the footsteps of this brutish tradition in an unrelenting and barbaric attack on the audience’s viewing.
With New Year’s Eve on the horizon, long-time couple Sam and Ian plan a peaceful and secluded camping trip to celebrate starting a fresh and just enjoying the company of one another. Once they arrive at the camping spot from Ian’s childhood, it becomes apparent that something may have happened when they realise that the tent and car already located there seem to have been deserted in a panicked dash. It’s not until Sam finds a bloody, bruised and severely neglected baby wandering the woods alone when they both realise that something truly horrific has happened here.
Killing Ground flitters back and forth between the current situation and what occurred to the previous family, leaving the audience with no surprises in terms of who the killers are, what happened to the family before and what is the most likely outcome for Sam and Ian. Even though it seems there are no thrills to be discovered, this storytelling formula paints the bleak and dire canvas for the audience, leaving us in a state of constant dread and looming of what’s to come next. Too many films don’t show us the true characters of our antagonists, which leaves confusion around why they would want to commit such heinous acts and how they’re so morally impaired that normal human feelings seem to be devoid in them. German (Aaron Pederson) and Chook (Aaron Glennane) are as deprived as they come; they are known by the local authorities for their aggressive canine, unwelcoming behaviour and disturbing atmosphere that lingers around them like a vulture circling a carcass.
Although Killing Ground isn’t anything particularly ground-breaking or different from what’s been done before, it does seem to hold your gut the entire way through, tugging a little more with every brutal scene depicting, and finally ripping them out at the end. From the beginning of the film, the audience are fully aware that something awful happened at the hands of our vultures, but there are glimmers of hope which are instantly shotgunned down and abused just as badly as the family. The involvement of the baby certainly makes for a difficult watch when it comes to a couple of particular acts, one which lasted for a mere ten seconds yet was the moment that completely destroyed my outlook on what would happen. This seemed to be the same overwhelming dread that is represented by Sam, as she realises these men hunt like dogs and have no regard for whether the prey is fresh from his mother’s arms or closer to the grave.
Director Damien Powers went for the unflinching sense of realism with this film, by lighting shots with hot Australian outback sun and providing camerawork that is unpolished with a touch of nerve. When it comes to films of this nature, providing a realistic backdrop is the key to submerging the audience in a pool of dreadful emotions, and only allowing them to surface for a few minutes and then pushing them back under again. Although the audience is given this sense of realism, it seems that it falters and doesn’t quite captivate the audience as it should. Why? It’s hard topinpointt exactly why this is the case, as Killing Ground has all the right elements for a disturbing horror film, but never quite hits the right spot. Maybe the narrative does become tiresome in the end, or maybe it’s because the characters we should cheer for are a little lacklustre.
Undoubtedly a hard-hitting Australian horror film, that truly captures the essence of how bleak and brutal a camping trip in the outback would be. Killing Ground will hold a knife to your throat and keep you traumatised, but will never quite give you the surprise of the slit.