Killing Ground Review
It's the Christmas/New Year season, and Sam (Harriet Dyer) and her doctor boyfriend Ian (Ian Meadows) go for a camping holiday in the New South Wales bush. However, something is strange: there's a car and a tent pitched near to where they set up theirs, but no one is occupying it. There's a young child's hat on the ground. As they investigate what's happened, they soon come under threat.
Killing Ground, a feature debut for writer/director Damien Power, is very familiar stuff, with echoes of Wolf Creek and Deliverance and quite a few others. It's quite tense once it gets going, but “once it gets going” is the operative phrase. If you are going to spend half your running time building up to this, that time should pay off in greater character involvement, but in this film the people on screen are thinly written and inevitably it's the villains who make the greatest impression.
The film has a flashback/forward structure for the first forty minutes or so, as we follow three sets of characters in two timelines. Sam and Ian are on site three days after Margaret (Maya Stange) and Rob (Julian Garner), teenaged Em (Tiarnie Coupland) and toddler Ollie (Liam and Riley Parkes). They have a run-in with ex-con Scotty “German” Shepherd (Aaron Pedersen) and and his none-too-bright mate Todd “Chook” Fowler (Aaron Glenane) and three days later Sam and Ian find themselves on the wrong side of German and Chook too. “You have to take your opportunities where you find them,” says German, who has served time for sex with a minor, for Chook that opportunity means Em, and things escalate from there. As played by Glenane, Chook is a particularly nasty piece of work. The rest of the main cast do well enough with, frankly, blander roles.
There's no doubt that Killing Ground is a well-shot and well-put-together feature film, and as with many Australian films the landscape in the middle of summer adds to the atmosphere of menace. (Add this title to the list of Southern Hemisphere Christmas films, which would also include Wake in Fright – not much in the way of peace on Earth and goodwill to all here.) It's watchable enough for the just under an hour and a half it's onscreen, but you really have seen this all before.