Australian filmmakers seem to have a knack for making interesting horror movies. Regardless of your feelings toward the divisive The Babadook, there are also great films like Wake in Fright, Wolf Creek, Snowtown, The Reef, Wyrmwood, Patrick, and The Loved Ones. So I was cautiously optimistic when I went into Killing Ground, and I was not disappointed.
The film starts out in a very “we’ve seen this before” kind of way. An Australian couple is going camping in a remote area that, of course, doesn’t have any cell phone reception. On a quick stop near their destination, they draw the interest of a creepy, uncouth local. It’s pretty clear that he’s going to mess with them, and it seems like he follows them for a while on their way out. It’s not all that different from Wolf Creek or Deliverance.
But when they get to where they’re going, they find that they won’t be alone. There’s another car parked at the beginning of the trail, and another tent set up on the beach. The other people don’t seem to be around, but they’re probably just out hiking or something. But thanks to the film’s editing, which is a little confusing at first and then interesting once you figure out what’s going on, you can see what’s going on with both groups of people even though each seems to be alone.
To be honest, the only thing that is in any way unique about this movie is in its editing and they way that it reveals its story to the audience. The performances are good (and the actors seem to have a good amount of collective experience, even if they’re relatively unknown in the U.S.), and so is the filmmaking, but the film would have been pretty unremarkable if it had been laid out in a more conventional way. Yeah, there’s gore and brutality and shock value, but that’s to be expected in a movie like this. It really all comes down to a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that worked surprisingly well for me.
I do have a couple of minor complaints. One of them is an extremely stupid and completely inexplicable decision by one of the main characters that, had it gone differently, could have dramatically reduced the tension toward the end of the film. But given how sudden and visceral my reaction to it was, it may well have been done intentionally just to screw with the audience. A second issue is that one of the storylines isn’t completely resolved. This is more baffling than anything else, because it’s not possible that they just forgot about it (they make a point to bring it up near the end), it’s not the kind of thing that benefits from being ambiguous or left hanging, and it’s not the kind of thing that I can imagine being used as the basis for a sequel. But these are just minor annoyances in an otherwise fun and somewhat innovative movie.