The Movie Waffler New Release Review - KILLING GROUND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - KILLING GROUND

killing ground movie review
Tourists in backwoods Australia are terrorised by a pair of sadistic killers.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Damien Power

Starring: Harriet Dyer, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Tiarnie Coupland, Aaron Pedersen, Ian Meadows, Aaron Glenane

killing ground poster

American movies of the '70s were full of naive tourists being slaughtered on trips to otherwise idyllic rural spots, be it in the mainstream (Deliverance) or the grindhouse (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). The popular opinion among cultural critics posits such movies as a reaction to and commentary on America's involvement in Vietnam, a theory backed up by the similar wave of 'torture porn' thrillers that began to emerge soon after the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, though the latter were vastly inferior to their '70s forebears.

Another country that fought alongside the US in 'Nam was Australia, and that nation's cinema also embarked upon a wave of movies in which 'civilised' folk came a cropper in the outback. With the Australian movies however, it was usually nature itself (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Long Weekend) rather than any homicidal hillbillies that provided the antagonistic force. In recent years however a new generation of down under directors have been exploring the dark side of their country's human population rather than its treacherous flora and fauna, with grim and grimy thrillers like Wolf Creek, Snowtown and Hounds of Love, all films inspired by true events.

killing ground

The latest raw slice of Antipodean abhorrence is Killing Ground, the impressively confident feature debut of writer-director Damien Power. Unlike his contemporaries, Power isn't drawing on the exploits of any real life killers here, rather fashioning a tale that plays like a greatest hits of Ozploitation.

Rather than joining the masses in downtown Sydney or Melbourne, young lovebirds Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) head off to a remote beach in the Australian bush to ring in the new year and escalate their relationship to the next level with an impromptu marriage proposal.

killing ground

Also staying at the beach is a young family, and when they mention Christmas Day as having occurred four days ago, we realise Power is presenting us with two separate timelines, one which follows said family on December 29th, the other concerning Sam and Ian on the 31st, when worryingly, the tent occupied by the aforementioned family has since been ravaged and discarded.

Traversing both timelines are local yokels German (Josh Brolin lookalike Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane), a pair of bored thugs with more than boar hunting on their evil minds.

Power's use of disparate but interlocking timelines is inspired rather than contrived, adding an extra dimension of suspense to the narrative, and keeping us guessing as to just how villainous the intentions of German and Chook really are.

killing ground

Like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there's relatively little blood spilled here, Power instead psychologically manipulating the viewer into assuming the worst. While there's nothing graphic shown on screen, there are images and ideas presented here that will haunt your dreams, especially for any parents in the audience. This is grindhouse cinema at its most powerful, a talented filmmaker working in a genre that's become the home of opportunistic hacks in the decades since its '70s heyday.

Killing Ground is a world away from the laughable, gore-obsessed turkeys of Eli Roth. Power isn't just letting us know he's a fan of exploitation cinema - he's using the form to comment on the nature of man's survival instinct, and he takes us to some incredibly dark places in doing so. A film that will make you question how you might react in a similar scenario, Killing Ground is survival horror with a capital S and a capital H, the most refreshing take on the genre in quite some time. 

Killing Ground is in UK cinemas September 29th.