Review: Killing Ground
Harriet Dyer and Ian Meadows are a young couple wanting to spend New Year’s out in the bush, camping for god knows what reason. They’re advised by a gruff man to head for a nice beach spot to pitch their tent, as he helpfully gives them directions. We are also introduced to parents Maya Stange and Julian Garner and their two kids. A couple of days later, Dyer and Meadows are disturbed to find a seemingly abandoned baby with no traces of its parents. Meanwhile, the man who gave them directions (Aaron Pedersen) calls up his mate Chook (Aaron Glenane) to ask if he wants to go on a hunting trip.
Lean and mean, this 2017 offering from debut feature writer-director Damien Power (whose background is in short films) shows that when we put our minds to it, Aussies can make solid genre entries like this killer-thriller. Like “Wolf Creek” it won’t be to all tastes and will likely disturb the delicate sensibilities of some wine-sniffing, opera glass-wearing members of the Australian critical establishment. However, if you’re into movies like this and don’t have your head up your derriere, it’s a pretty good one.
We start with a classic Aussie rock song playing on the radio, ala Daddy Cool’s ‘Eagle Rock’ playing during “Wolf Creek”. They’re no Divinyls, INXS or Mondo Rock, but The Sunnyboys’ ‘Alone With You’ is certainly iconically Australian nonetheless. Also worth noting is that we truly do have some of the best scenery in the world, and like “Wolf Creek” it gets put to good, sinister use here. The bad guys are a bit more shaded than Mick Taylor, as one of them is even a cop. Whilst ominous from the get-go, one of the men’s true nature is only slowly revealed in a film that although in some ways straightforward, is also a bit twistier than the average film of this sort. In fact, the narrative/plot structure itself has some tricks up its sleeve to help distinguish itself. It’s a clever bit of narrative deception at work I must say. All I’ll say is that things aren’t as they first appear, and the film really benefits from it, since some would otherwise have found it a bit simplistic.
Leading lady Harriet Dyer proves much more charismatic and interesting than co-lead Ian Meadows it has to be said. He’s pretty poor, but the performances across the board here are otherwise quite solid. Meadows just doesn’t bring anything much to the table in comparison to everyone else. Chief standouts here are obviously Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glenane. I’m no Aaron Pedersen fan as I think he has a tendency to be rather wooden, but boy can he play a moody, brooding character like this for all it’s worth. Glenane is perfect too, and neither actor is remotely over-the-top in roles that could’ve certainly lent themselves to histrionics or ham.
Although it’s in many ways your typical killer-thriller (albeit more “Deliverance” than “Wolf Creek”), this Aussie genre outing has some twists and complexities in terms of the plot and the villains. It’s well-acted, contains outstanding scenery and is a respectable, if no-frills horror-thriller. It’s a shame a film like this is so unknown, whilst ghastly stereotyped ocker crap like “Red Dog” and “Kenny” have gotten plenty of attention well past that kind of depiction’s used-by date. I don’t think this one even got a theatrical release here at home. Criminal, though I’ll understand those who don’t find interest in exploring the darkest elements of humanity might not want to take this rather unflinching journey. It’s not a nice film, but it is an effective and well-made one.