“Killing Ground” Is An Intense, Slow-Burn Thriller



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Posted July 28, 2017 by

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Australia is widely considered to be one of the more dangerous places on earth. A wide variety of snakes, spiders, and other deadly predators make the country’s less populated areas a bit terrifying, even to the most avid lover of nature. My wife, Shannon, loves camping, horseback riding, and hiking, but every time I suggest we go check out Australia she pulls up some YouTube video of a funnel web spider, or an adder, or a bull shark and says “Not in a million years”. In his debut feature film, writer/director Damien Power a different, but equally horrifying, threat in the Australian wild.

Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) head deep into the mountains, in search of a remote, lakeside campsite that will allow them to unwind for a weekend. They are slightly disappointed, upon their arrival, to find another tent just a few hundred feet away, but they are determined to make the most of their vacation. When night falls, and the other campers don’t return, the young couple begin to suspect something might be wrong. That feeling is multiplied by about a thousand, when they find a toddler wandering the woods alone.

We see flashbacks that show the fate of the other family, and are introduced to German (Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane), the two men who are responsible for their disappearance. German and Chook first seem like run-of-the-mill roughnecks who spend their days guzzling booze and catcalling women. We soon see, though, that they are much more psychotic than that, and that Ian and Sam are going to have to outsmart them if they want to avoid the fate of the lost campers.

The story at play, in “Killing Ground” is nothing new. Power is not out to breathe new life into the genre, but he does a few things remarkably well. Unlike so many “Manhunt in the woods” movies, Power’s film lets the viewer get to know the players early on and throughout. We spend a decent amount of time with Em (Tiarnie Coupland) and her family before their unfortunate ordeal. This allows us to be more enraged by the actions of German and Chook, and that leads us perfectly into how we feel once Ian and Sam are going toe to toe with these dangerous madmen. Likewise, we get to see German and Chook’s home, and follow them to the bars that they spend their time in, when they aren’t terrorizing campers. All of this is even more impressive, considering the film’s 88 minute run time. Power uses every second of those 88 minutes to maximize the intensity of the final act.

While there are a few cliche, bad decisions in the finale, it is still a nail-biting, bloody ride. The suspense and tension are helped, in a big way, by the haunting visuals. Cinematographer Simon Chapman uses the Australian landscape to max effect, and provides plenty of memorable shots. Credit should also be given to not just the performances of Pederson and Glenane (who are great antagonists), but also the two leading women (Dyer and Coupland) who bear much of the film’s emotional weight.

I enjoyed the hell out of “Killing Ground”. I am sure some people will watch it and will find things to complain about, because that is what many movie-watchers enjoy doing, but this is just a solid, well-made thriller. You can already see the promise of things to come for its young director, and this will most certainly be looked back on as a strong launching point to his career.




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