Australia. It’s a scary place. A place, as Dylan Moran so succinctly put, “located three quarters of a mile from the surface of the sun and inhabited almost exclusively by things designed to kill you”. As such, it’s no surprise that over the last few decades, the sub-continent has produced some absolutely outstanding offerings to the world of horror movies. From the gut-wrenching Wolf Creek to the intense yet hilarious The Loved Ones or the emotionally-wrought Babadook, the great and powerful Oz has been quietly making a name for itself amongst macabre circles.
As such, I was intrigued by the prospect of Killing Ground, another tale of outback terror from fledgling director Damien Power, the man behind the funky little short, Peekaboo. Of course, assuming that a horror film is to be great simply because it’s Australian is like assuming that a man can cook just because he’s French.
My friend Antoine can’t even make toast.
Killing Ground follows young couple, Ian and Sam (Ian Meadows and Harriet Dyer), as they head for a romantic comping trip in the woods. Upon arrival, they discover that they are not the only ones at their idyllic campsite, and we are then introduced to sulky teen Em (Tiarne Coupland) and her delightfully outdoorsy family. Amidst all the pleasantries, a growing threat comes in the form of tracker buddies German and Chook (Aaron Pederson and Aaron Glenane) who, it transpires, have a penchant for raping and murdering backpackers who happen to wander across their territory.
On paper, there’s a lot to like about Killing Ground; it has all the elements of Wolf Creek crossed with the exploitation horror of the Seventies. And, indeed, at times, there are some great set pieces.
Unfortunately, where the film falls flat is that it is, simply put, really quite boring. Despite some clever playing with time-lines during the first act, the film just meanders along. Brutality is all off-screen or implied. Not that it needs to be onscreen, but if you’re trying to take a leaf out of the pages of Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, then you may as well go for it. After all, what made those films so powerful was the sheer terror experienced by their victims. A dead body doesn’t quite have the same impact these day guys. Sorry.
Our leads are also rather magnolia. There’s nothing particularly endearing about any of the protagonists, and despite a decent turn by Pederson as grizzled poacher German, Glenane as the main villain lacks any real menace as he bumbles his way after his prey.
Overall, Killing Ground is somewhat disappointing. It’s nothing we haven’t seen done better before. If you’re looking for a great Aussie horror, check out any of the aforementioned, ‘cause this one just doesn’t quite hit its target.
Killing Ground is out now in selected cinemas
Dir: Damien Power
Scr: Damien Power
Cast: Harriet Dyer, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Aaron Pederson, Tiarnie Coupland, Stephen Hunter, Ian Meadows, Maya Stange, Julian Garner, Aaron Glenane
Prd: Lisa Shaunessy, Joe Weatherstone
DOP: Simon Chapman
Music: Leah Curtis
Run time: 88mins