Killing Ground delivers on nastiness and brutality and is well shot and performed, but plot flaws and cardboard cut-out characters let it down. Ultimately, just another also-ran in the horror/thriller genre.
When young couple Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) go bush for a romantic camping holiday in a secluded spot of NSW they are disappointed to find another tent set up nearby. Turns out there’s nobody in it. Events take a sinister turn when they come across a lone toddler in desperate need of hospitalisation. Problem: they discover they have a flat tyre, and Ian is unable to budge the wheel nuts to put on a spare. Bigger problem: company arrives in the person of rifle-totin’ pig hunter Chook (Aaron Glenane), who is clearly up to no good. Biggest problem: AB’s fellow hunter buddy German (Aaron Pedersen) rolls up, and it becomes frighteningly apparent that pigs aren’t these dudes’ main quarry…
- The building of intrigue and tension is well managed until the piece enters horror mode about half way through. It’s all pretty stock standard genre stuff from then on.
- Aarons Petersen and Glenane play their bad guy roles with convincing menace, but it has to be said they’re one-dimensional cut-out characters without complexity and the degree of difficulty for the actors is low.
- The only character with any sort of arc is Sam. Harriet Dyer presents initially as a performance weak link, but in hindsight this is down to her being given crap lines of throwaway small-talk dialogue. It doesn’t help that she starts as an annoyingly girlie young thang in cutsie mode leaning on her I’ll-take-care-of-you doctor fiancée. She adroitly manages Sam’s transformation from passive dependent to iron-willed survivor prepared to fight for her life to her last breath.
- The intermittent use of flashback to reveal the fate of the missing occupants of the empty tent is well handled, eventually melding this narrative strand with the present to horrific effect.
- The film only runs for 88 mins (it seems longer).
- The script. An improbably fortuitous encounter of Ian with one of his would-be murderers in an early scene does not augur well. Ditto our intro to Ian and Sam, who present as irritatingly in lurve (Sam proposes to Ian soon after they pitch their tent – how PC).
- The characterisation is black and white. The baddies are unrelentingly bad and we get zilch of their backstory. They’re just bad. Ian is a weak character, and this is emphasised in all his actions (and non-actions) once the horror kicks in. As mentioned, Sam is the exception: she has a bit more depth to her and at least develops as the film progresses.
- The narrative pursues a familiar course (homicidal maniacs pursuing human prey in a remote Australian bush setting). Don’t expect originality, cos you won’t find much here.
- There are some glaring plot flaws. The worst is the incompetence of a couple of dumbarse country cops in approaching an armed, rampaging killer with pistols not even at the ready, and without having called for backup. Ludicrous. The results of their incompetence are utterly predictable.
Enough of Aussie films featuring homicidal maniacs running amok in the bush! If you’re gonna go that route, you need to adopt a novel approach – and this ain’t the case with Killing Ground.
Australian release date: Killing Ground in Australian cinemas from 24 Aug 2017
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