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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Killing Ground  (2017)
3 Stars
Directed by Damien Power.
Cast: Harriet Dyer, Ian Meadows, Aaron Glenane, Aaron Pedersen, Tiarnie Coupland, Maya Stange, Stephen Hunter, Liam Parkes, Riley Parkes.
2017 – 89 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong violence, and for language and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, November 13, 2017.
Adeptly building palls of unease and impending doom through its shifting-timelines narrative, Aussie survival thriller "Killing Ground" treads across familiar territory but does so in a way that feels fresh. There is also something to be said for sheer filmmaking know-how, of which writer-director Damien Power (making his auspicious feature debut) has plenty. Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are a happy young couple camping out for New Year's Eve on a remote riverside beach. A family—parents Chris (Stephen Hunter) and Margaret (Maya Stange), teenager Em (Tiarnie Coupland) and baby Ollie (Liam and Riley Parkes)—are doing the same thing a stone's throw down from them. And German (Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane) are locals who, it is quickly revealed, have committed an unspeakable crime and may be about to do it again. These three threads are destined to converge, and as the inevitable sinks in for the viewer it does not hurt the story's momentum but actually increases one's anxiety over what, when and how two life-or-death struggles are about to play out.

"Killing Ground" is primal and nerve-shredding, a savvily constructed horror film of very real human monsters and innocent victims staring death in the face. There's a little "Wolf Creek" and a little "Eden Lake" in its DNA, but the confidence of its script and the catharsis of its performances ensures it isn't simply a derivative redux. Eliciting restraint without shrinking away from the brutality of each situation, director Damien Power ensures his picture never wades into demeaning exploitation. Still, the proceedings can be uncomfortable, as they should be, its most fascinating dichotomy laying with the human psychology of characters who choose to either close their eyes and wait to die, or do whatever it takes to get out of their ordeal alive.
© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

[Blu-ray Review] Cursed Films (2020)

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