It’s often referenced only half-jokingly that everything in Australia can kill you in a variety of terrifying and indignant ways, that the entire island continent is a blasted hellscape whose every species of plant and wildlife is out for your agonised destruction. If the films coming out of the country during the last decade are anything to go by, we can also add commonplace humans to that list, with Killing Ground joining the likes of Snowtown, The Loved Ones and Wolf Creek in its tale of psychotic killers painted all the more brutal by their seemingly everyday banality.
Young couple Sam and Ian head off for a camping trip, only to find an empty tent already at their proposed site. Soon after they are stalked and menaced by a pair of local psychopaths who engage in the odd spot of murder as a hobby, and as the story jumps back and forth in time the events of earlier are revealed, along with the fate of the family who first encountered them. You’ll never look at camping the same way again!
One thing that separates Killing Ground from many others of its ilk is its focus on characterisation. Too often both murderers and victims are treated as being generic and disposable, with the focus being on acts of depravity erroneously believed to be the only appeal of such films. The time spent with the killers German and Chook attempts to portray them as relatable people with normal lives, with stalking, sexual assault and murder as merely non-standard extra-curricular activities. However, despite knowing more about how they spend their time, it doesn’t afford them much greater depth than that of any anonymous prowler of countless similar movies. Sam and Ian, meanwhile, are practically a study in ordinariness, their purposefully standard lives intended to have something with which most audience members can identify, thus making their reactions when everything goes to hell that much more relatable. As events intensify it’s Sam who becomes the far more interesting of the pair, although she never descends to becoming just another Final Girl.
Rather than most horror movies that stand in sanctimonious judgement of the lamentable decision-making skills of their assorted victims, the film instead demands you consider – and really think about – exactly what you would do upon finding yourself in the same situation. While it doesn’t show the ordeals of its characters in as graphic detail as you might expect, it doesn’t make them any easier to stomach, as you are still well aware of what’s going on, and in some ways it’s actually a little worse as it sends your imagination spiralling.
Killing Ground makes a genuine and wholehearted effort to be something different, and to a certain extent succeeds, but with the rest of it being too much of more of the same it doesn’t stand out quite as much as it hopes to.
KILLING GROUND / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAMIEN POWER / STARRING: HARRIET DYER, IAN MEADOWS, AARON PEDERSEN, AARON GLENANE / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 7/10