Edinburgh International Film Festival

Killing Ground (2016)

Starring: Harriet Dyer, Ian Meadows, Tiarnie Coupland, Aaron Pedersen, Aaron Glenane

Directed by: Damien Power

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Flaming hell, Australia's a scary place! If the insects or crocs don't kill you, be sure that the local rednecks will. Even if, like unfortunate couple Ian and Sam (Ian Meadows and Harriet Dyer), they don't break any of the rules. Sure, they're going camping in the wilds, which is never a great idea, but when they arrive at their destination they aren't snobby or aggressive to the locals; they don't insult anyone or barge into their houses unasked or flaunt their city ways in front of the hillbillies. They simply pitch their tent and wait for their lives to fall apart.

Harriet Dyer as Sam in Killing Ground

There's something gloriously laconic and matter of fact about the violence in this film. Much of it happens off camera, with only a stripped and bleeding corpse left as evidence. Our killers blow away their victims as if shooting at cans (in one scene they actually are – albeit in a hideous William Tell fashion), leaving evidence scattered freely as if invincably sure they'll never get caught. The woods are their playground, and anyone foolish enough to set foot there, their playthings.

Mixing the horrible unfairness of Eden Lake with the casual brutality of Wolf Creek, Killing Ground is a thoroughly compelling, heart-stoppingly shocking horror film. And yet, unlike Wolf Creek (or indeed Wake in Fright, Snow Town, Hounds of Love or many other gruelling Aussie horror movies I could mention), the overriding message is not quite so bleak. There is room for hope here, with the terrible inevitability of the action undercut by the courage and quick-thinking of Sam, a final girl who actually seems to have her wits about her – and certainly knows how to doubletap. Some rules are definitely made to be broken.

And with Killing Ground following hot on the heels of the aforementioned Hounds of Love, it seems that right now Down Under is the place to see them broken; the country's on fire with cracking horror flicks. Flaming hell indeed...

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