‘Killing Ground’ is a competent but unimaginative thriller

Killing Ground’s titles are presented over pictures of eerie natural tranquillity instead of a credit sequence: camps set up but seemingly deserted, routes clear but silent, woodlands attractive if not for a disconcerting lack of fauna. Even before the movie starts, the message is clear: nature isn’t most terrible when it’s dark and we fear predators, but when everything is light but off, when everything appears to be in order until you notice no birds chirping, no bugs shrieking, and everything is motionless and tense.

As Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) drive out to a secluded park to celebrate the New Year, that slight offness is what prompts the major storyline of Killing Ground.

Only to discover that another party has set up camp in the same spot. As they discover the other campers have failed to return, what starts as minor frustration about someone else infringing on their peaceful holiday becomes into intrigue. When Sam glances inside their tent, she notices that it’s not only deserted, but also brutally disturbed.

Director Damien Power made the unusual option to increase the suspense in Killing Ground by moving between timelines, rather than dwelling on this oddity.

Sam and Ian’s primary narrative thread is juxtaposed with flashbacks to what happened with the other campers and two hicks Sam and Ian encountered when stopping for supplies.

Whereas more mature horror films like The Invitation try to leave the audience guessing about whether or not their greatest nightmares will come true, Killing Ground isn’t that patient, and it’s evident that the other campers have been hurt in some manner right away. So the issue is simply when and why, as well as if the perpetrators will return to harm our two characters.

Killing Ground is a workhorse of a thriller, adequate in its shocks but missing the refinement to defy genre expectations and the ingenuity that allows good grindhouse films to endure long after their expiry date. Killing Ground is brutal, brutish, and brief, but it isn’t memorable in the same way that Wolf Creek and High Tension were. Those films are honest in their brutality, but they’re also well-thought-out and artistically depicted, well aware that their settings are just as, if not more, interesting than their stakes. Despite the rich possibilities of the setting, Killing Ground is only as cunning as its redneck villains and similarly graceless, with sequences devoid of any true feeling of claustrophobia.

In the end, Killing Ground’s sombre, scary start is really a ruse, a false promise that the spectator would be treated to anything more disturbing and surprising than an Australian take on Deliverance. Instead, the audience is left with another another in a long series of lacklustre thrillers that recognise the promise of a locale before being distracted by plotlines and characters who aren’t half as compelling.

 

 

 

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