Title: Killing Ground
Director: Damien Power
Starring: Harriet Dyer, Ian Meadows, Aaron Glenane
Watched On: Netflix Instant
Killing Ground is a rarity; a genuinely emotionally draining and depressing slasher film. Most slasher films are depressing in some way or another, at least to a certain type of viewer, but filmmaker Damien Power’s directorial debut has a tangible vibe of realism that’s considerably lacking in the genre. It’s visceral, uncomfortable viewing throughout, and sports a nonlinear storyline that is initially a little confusing, but ends up adding to the overall experience of the film.
The set-up of this movie is beyond stereotypical; a young, happy, good-looking couple (Harriet Dyer and Ian Meadows) goes camping in the outback and is terrorized by a duo of psychos. It’s straight out of textbook slasher film 101. It’s the execution (no pun intended) that’s a little different, evoking a genuine sense of fear and helplessness through the above-average acting, surprisingly authentic feeling characters, and a strong sense of tension and unease.
I found it interesting that while the male lead, Ian, falters and succumbs to his own cowardice in the admittedly extreme situation, his girlfriend Samantha emerges as the truly empowered character in the story, taking charge when he boyfriend cannot. Samantha plays a surrogate mother figure to an traumatized infant she finds on her camping trip after his parents and sister are murdered, and the inclusion of a baby admittedly provides higher emotional stakes, especially with a film that establishes itself early on as a unusually brutal thriller with a bleak and pessimistic vibe.
Both the actors who play the villains excel in their roles, and I was particularly impressed by Aaron Glegano as ‘Chook,’ the younger, dimmer killer. His cold, dead eyes and nervous tics really brought the character to life for me. There are some examples of characters making implausibly stupid decisions, especially when it comes to trusting the main baddies, who have about zero potential as scrupulous human beings from the get-go.
Many people will probably find this movie difficult to watch, because of it’s uncompromising violence and recurring subject matter involving sexual assault (though mercifully, Power does not show any rapes onscreen), but for fans of the horror genre who are looking for something a little bit different, Killing Ground delivers. While it has many of the traits of a formulaic slasher film, it ultimately manages to do something a bit different while subverting viewer expectations.