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  • Rev Horror

Killing Ground

Dir. Damien Power (2016)

A camping couple accidentally come across a brutal crime scene.

It's that time of year again, the time where people begin heading into nature to experience all of the woodsy goodness the world has to offer. The summer is the perfect time to go exploring the wilderness, so of course it's also the perfect time to watch some movies that will make you terrified to do so. Nature Kills Week 2024 kicks off with a good one, an Australian backwoods flick with the gritty Grindhouse style often inherent in Ozploitation films. Killing Ground is a true crime-esque tale of several horrific events that run parallel to each other in a unique method of storytelling that works tremendously well.

Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are a young couple out on a camping vacation for New Years, trying to ring in the holiday with a getaway into nature. They set up camp next to another campsite, an empty tent that seems outfitted for a vacation much like their own. When the people who were staying in the camp don't come back by nightfall, Sam and Ian begin to suspect that something might have happened to their fellow travelers, a notion that appears to be correct when they find a young boy dehydrated and alone on the trail by the campsite. Events spiral out of control as the two men responsible for the campers disappearance come back into the picture, and it begins to look like Sam and Ian might not make it back home.

By virtue of taking place in Australia, Killing Ground serves a dual purpose of being a summertime outdoors horror while also being a Christmas (or at least post-Christmas) movie. That's what you get when your hemisphere is backwards from the "real world," I suppose. It's a brutal flick, to be sure, with a lot of the backwoods ferocity found in films like Last House on the Left or Deliverance. It's a bit more subtle than those, however, becoming more of a depiction of the actual events surrounding a crime than those earlier backwoods films. Dyer and Meadows are fantastic as the couple trying desperately to survive, and the film takes a much more realistic bent to what would happen to people stuck in this situation than most horror films tend to do.

The real star of the film to me was Aaron Glenane as "Chook," one half of the serial-killing duo that is responsible for all of the bloodshed. He's perfectly deranged, with a character depth that you don't usually see in films like this. I was really expecting something along the lines of Lucas Pittaway's character in The Snowtown Murders, a pitiable role of a younger man being dragged into depravity by the real villain. There are shades of that, make no mistake: Aaron Pederson's "German" appears through most of the film to be the more vicious of the two villains. Once Chook takes the plunge, however, he's an incredibly deep character that is performed admirably by the younger Glenane. They're both incredibly realistic bad guys, however, and they both do a phenomenal job in their roles as killers who may well be lurking in the underbrush.

Australian horror has a long, often forgotten history. From the grindhouse-y Ozploitation films of the 70's and 80's like Dead End Drive-In to the more diabolically authentic Outback horrors of the 2000's like Wolf Creek, Australian horror is severely underrated amongst the majority of horror fans. Maybe it's because of the constant fight for survival every time you leave your house (and sometimes when you don't), but the Land Down Under produces a specific type of horror film that is rarely found elsewhere, that uber-realistic survival horror that seems to pack so much more of a punch in the arid, climatically unique terrain of the continent. There's something so much more isolating about Australian horror, and while it's a tenet that would be so easy to include in the films from other countries, it rarely is done so to such great effect.

Killing Ground is not particularly unique, especially amongst its Ozzie film compatriots, but it is spectacularly well done. It's scary, incredibly disturbing, and feels so detached from any sense of morality that it quickly becomes one of the better entries in the isolationist survival horror genre. It's a perfect time of year to watch it, even though it's not summertime in the Southern hemisphere, and I definitely recommend adding it to your summer watchlist if you haven't seen it before. I'm a big fan of nature-focused horror films, and this one seemed like a perfect way to kick of Nature Week 2024. Give this one a look at your earliest convenience.

Who this movie is for: Backwoods horror fans, Australian horror buffs, Camping enthusiasts

Bottom line: Killing Ground is a fantastic entry into the outdoors horror genre, and while nature is definitely not the baddie this time around, it's still incredibly effective and disturbing. The actors all do a fantastic job in their roles, and the evil inhabiting the villains is palpable and real. If you're a fan of outdoorsy horror or survival horror in general, I definitely recommend giving this one a look. It's streaming on Shudder right now, and it's the perfect time of year to check it out if you live in any place where it's hot as all hell right now. Give it a watch and see if you agree.

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