In association with the GFT
Killing Ground follows young couple Samantha and Ian on a New Years getaway trip to a riverside campsite in the Australian bush. Upon discovering a seemingly abandoned tent and a lost infant, the two are left struggling and stranded far from help. Writer and director Damien Power adopts a nesting doll device for his narrative, with scenes unravelling the mystery of the empty tent and its sole occupant strung out in tandem with the film’s present events, as the couple discover for themselves the beach’s grim history and, eventually, are left fighting for their lives.
Killing Ground’s violence arrives late, and by the time it does it’s all the more affecting, as we’ve grown intimate with its victims and its perpetrators. Through little moments in the films early scenes Powers gradually packs meat around otherwise skeletal characters – and as he does we come to know them, if only enough to care. Thus, when Killing Ground kicks off it isn’t with the detached brutality of masked slashers against interchangeable stereotypes. Instead we witness cruelty inflicted by and upon fleshed-out individuals – and it’s gut-churning. There’s no thrill to it, no chase and pursuit. Just a measured slew of horror upon horror, aided by assured performances and an unsettling score.
In its worst moments, this violence grazes dangerously close against the rape-revenge torture porn territory of Straw Dogs and its multitude of imitators. It breaches into problematic territory on more than one occasion, as its depiction of murder, rape and mutilation treads beyond the thorough and into the gratuitous. There are no convenient cutaways, and what little is withheld from us is packaged with enough bleak context to give us a clear mental image of the unseen horror.
As a film, Killing Ground is a flawed yet effective outback horror, and an otherwise strong debut from Powers. As an experience, it’s exhausting. Its lean narrative drags us through the worst of human behaviour, then leaves us with a host of lingering questions. Questions which, given the sordid events of the past hour-and-a-half, it’s unlikely we’d like the answers to.
This film will screen at the GFT from the 2nd to the 5th of October. Tickets are available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/shows/killing-ground-15
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/plan-your-visit/memberships/15-25-card
[Ronan Duff – @DonanRuff]