Killing Ground (2016)
★★ / ★★★★
Stern-faced horror-thriller “Killing Ground,” written and directed by Daniel Power, is propelled by a painfully standard premise involving a couple (Harriet Dyer, Ian Meadows) camping in the wilderness who find themselves in a life or death situation. But what prevents it from becoming a typical fare of blood and violence is a non-linear storytelling in which tension is allowed to build for about half the picture’s running time until the inevitable meeting between killers (Aaron Pedersen, Aaron Glenane) and victims.
Shot in a matter-of-fact manner, one gets the impression initially that the picture has nothing to offer but a grim exercise of showing one sick imagery after another. Obviously influenced by filmmakers like Wes Craven and Michael Haneke, Power possesses the ability of showing gruesome violence while keeping a hold of restraint. Notice numerous instances where a weapon is not shown to make direct contact with the body. We are shown the aftermath and everything else is left to the imagination.
For a while it is difficult to pinpoint which of the couple will be the survivor. In a movie like this, one can usually guess correctly who will end up dead by the first act and who will make it to the hospital black and blue with broken bones. Contributing to the unpredictability is the type of storytelling. Seeing the story through the eyes of the now-dead victims, murderers, and future victims keep us on our toes. While we are busy trying to put the pieces together, it leaves little time for the camera to fix itself on the obvious lead protagonist.
But this isn’t to suggest that there are well-written characters to be found here which is a major disappointment since the material shows great potential. I found them to be pedestrian, vanilla. For instance, I wished to know what motivated the murderers to kill. Is it in their nature? Has life pushed them to become psychopaths? Dialogue suggests one or both of them have been in jail at some point, but no further detail is spared. As for the couple, their relationship is quite boring. Not once do we get a sense of what they see in one another. Individually, neither of them is that smart or resourceful when it comes to dealing with problems. But perhaps that is the point: Sam and Ian are merely ordinary folks caught in an extraordinary situation.
While “Killing Ground” is a decent thriller to watch during a cold or rainy night, it is not a standout in the genre. If the script that had undergone further revisions to enrich characterizations, it might turned out to become a different beast entirely. It is unfortunate because its style is appropriate for the story it wishes to tell. For a more realized film by comparison, please check out James Watkins’ unrelentingly brutal, foul, and near-brilliant “Eden Lake.”