by Hope Madden
Australian campers find trouble in what amounts to Eden Lake meets Wolf Creek.
If you missed either of those two deeply troubling horror classics, you should watch them now. Right now, seriously.
Great, right? Terrifying, eh? Makes you kind of want to see what writer/director Damien Power has in store with his feature film debut, Killing Ground.
He starts off predictably enough: Sam (Harriet Dyer) and her boyfriend Ian (Ian Meadows) are headed to an out-of-the-way campsite Ian remembers from his childhood. They stop for directions, are warned off by a creepy Aussie with a barking pit bull, go anyway.
They arrive and are disappointed to see that they’ll be sharing the site with another group – based on the parked SUV and the pitched tent. But where are these other campers?
Though Power doesn’t explore a lot of new ground with this campsite horror flick, his approach is so authentic and spare that it breaks free of cinematic hyperbole and leaves you seriously wondering why in the hell anybody camps – anywhere, but especially in Australia.
His narrative builds tension by cross-cutting between the tale of the camping couple and the story of the family whose vacant tent begins to really worry Sam and Ian come nightfall.
From The Babadook to Wyrmwood to The Loved Ones, Australia’s horror output has been outstanding in recent years. Earlier this year, newcomer Ben Young rocked cinemas with his low-budget Aussie horror Hounds of Love.
Killing Ground isn’t quite ready to join those ranks, mainly because, at its core, it’s an unremarkable story – although a few clever twists and choices keep it fresh enough.
The tale is well told and beautifully performed. Aaron Pendersen and Aaron Glenane, in particular, craft believable, dimensional, terrifying characters.
A satisfying power struggle and the provocative use of ambiguities that refuse to offer a tidy ending help the film hang around after credits role.
Seriously, though, why do people camp?