Review: KILLING GROUND, Halfway to a Disturbing Classic

Harriet Dyer and Ian Meadows star in writer/director Damien Power's dread-filled thriller from Australia.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, USA (@peteramartin)
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Review: KILLING GROUND, Halfway to a Disturbing Classic

I love horror movies that are disquieting and suspenseful. I hate horror movies that traffic in sheer cruelty and stupidity. So I love the first half of Killing Ground.

Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are the prototypical romantic couple from the city who head off into the remote woods for a little rest and recreation. It's a very familiar premise, to the point that horror movie devotees will assume that the supposedly sophisticated people from the city will undoubtedly cross paths with savage country bumpkins, leading to blood flowing freely and bodies piling up.

That's not exactly the way it goes, though. Damien Power, who wrote and directed, previously made a series of short films, and his experience becomes evident as the story develops. For one thing, when Sam and Ian cross paths early on with local bumpkins Chook and German (Aaron Glenane, Aaron Pederson), it's not clear if they're savages in waiting or just folks from the country who are a bit rough.

Though the tone is always dead serious, I thought about Tucker and Dale vs Evil: what if the country folk are just country folk? What if their threatening exterior is easily misunderstood by outsiders?

Once Sam and Ian arrive at their intended campsite by a river, they note that other campers have already set up nearby. They decide to stay anyway, and set up their camp, and enjoy themselves into the late evening. But what about the other campers?

Filmmaker Power sets up a three-pronged situation that becomes increasingly uncomfortable as it progresses, playing with expectations and jumping around in time. We learn more about locals Chook and German; we also meet the family that camped at the wrong place. We're also drawn deeper into the dilemma faced by Sam and Ian, whose easy camaraderie dissolves at the stakes are ratcheted up.

The stories are told in a quiet, deliberate fashion, which adds to the unease. After a certain point, though, the film succumbs to genre expectations and, indeed, the blood begins to flow.

That will be reassuring to some viewers, I am sure, but I confess that the violence caused me to disengage from the experience. It's not that anything extremely graphic is presented; it's more that the brutality is extended until it becomes torturous to watch, especially because Power and the actors have created realistic portraits of recognizable human beings.

Over the years, my tolerance for such things has contracted, so the violence feels especially cruel and excessive. Still, the first half of Killing Ground remains powerful and haunting, and is utterly compelling. Power is clearly a filmmaker to watch.

IFC Midnight will release the film in select theaters and on VOD on Friday, July 21.


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Aaron GlenaneAaron PedersonAustraliaDamien PowerHarriet DyerIan Meadows

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More about Killing Ground

D_userJuly 20, 2017 12:00 PM

I don't watch horror films, I like my nights quiet and peaceful. Yet curious does the cat become, so I thank God for Wikipedia and before IMDB message boards where I read the complete plot to know the end. Curiosity doesn't kill the cat.

cjohnstonJuly 20, 2017 3:02 PM

this one is _STILL___ HIGH on my 2c list.. ...just can't find it yet..
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*ohh.boyy...
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Under the Skin / Let Me In / Let the Right One In / The Aggression Scale / Treehouse / The Autopsy of Jane Doe / (of course, ...lol) The Lure / Deep Rising / Headhunters / A Lonely Place To Die / Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep / Hounds of Love.. ..... .......ALL are Dandie Horror/Thrillers..
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**it's like an itch, ..or a plague. ..where i just don't know where that darn "off" switch is.....lol.lol.

Peter MartinJuly 20, 2017 3:28 PM

Hmm, should start showing up on Video On Demand platforms tomorrow, at least in the U.S.

Peter MartinJuly 20, 2017 3:29 PM

To be fair, I watched this during the daytime, with sunlight peeking through the closed blinds.

cjohnstonJuly 20, 2017 3:35 PM

Much Appreciated, Mate .!

Greg HarrisJuly 20, 2017 8:18 PM

Can't seem to find this scheduled for any theaters in Toronto. Perhaps the Canadian release is still further away.

D_userJuly 20, 2017 11:25 PM

I did that too , once, for Kim Jee Woon's A Tale of Two Sisters. The figure beneath the sink, the figure in the bedroom, stayed on well into that night and for nights later. But still very very few horror films require a watch and A Tale is one such. Don't regret it but still I stay away from this genre. :)