The end of a relationship is always poignant. Be it an impulsive move made by one person that changes the dynamic forever, or a bullet to the head at close range, the finality is a moment is a time of reflection on the past, and a pondering of the future. The solidly made little horror flick, KILLING GROUND takes time from its mayhem to pay tribute to that sentiment while also crafting a story that doesn’t push the envelope of the genre, but does use the closing credits to take a sly wink at the audience.
It starts on New Year’s Eve, which in Australia is the, ahem, dead of summer. Samantha (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are a young couple in love and just starting out in life by spending the holiday camping in a remote location that lacks, of course, cell phone reception. It wasn’t their first choice, but was recommended to them by German (Aaron Pedersen), a burly stranger with a yappy pit bull, when that first choice proved too difficult to access. The location, complete with lake and waterfall with an ominous legend, is beautiful, but the vacant tent pitched on the shore seems odd. Sam and Ian, though, shrug it off and pitch their own tent as far away as possible so that their celebratory nookie won’t disturb their neighbors when they return.
They don’t, and the story of the grisly fate of father (Julian Garner), mother (Maya Stange), toddler, and moody but nubile teenager (Tiarnie Coupland) with night terrors, is intercut with Sam and Ian’s slow realization that all is not well until the two intersect when the reasons for the burly stranger’s help is revealed, and things go very bad very fast.
Playing expertly with the terrors of an isolated location, and the equally dangerous revelations that occur when people are put under pressure, writer/director Damien Power lets us in on what is awaiting Sam and Ian early on. We watch as they unwittingly welcome help from another stranger, Choock (Aaron Glenane), after we’ve seen what that stranger has done to the missing family, and wonder why they don’t catch on to how odd it is that he’s there, and that there is something off about him. And then wait with bated breath for Choock to the inevitable moment for him to reveal his true motives.
As for what happened to that family, the brutalization is straightforward, but the banality of it as they are dispatched
by their killers with little more pleasure than they take in a cold beer is at least as disquieting as the brutality itself. Power adds a dynamic between German and Choock that has some complicated undertones that smack of a tense interplay between dysfunction and eroticism, making them more interesting that the vanilla chiperness of Sam and Ian, but not allowing them to be even a whit sympathetic.
KILLING GROUND will satisfy that yen for a horror flick that has more going for it than a body count. The gore may be at a bare minimum, but the creep factor is pronounced, and the suspense, not to mention the surprises, will keep you on the edge of your seat and out of the woods forever.