Plot: Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) plan to leave the urban sprawl behind and embrace nature, as part of a romantic weekend excursion. The couple heads to a remote, rural locale with hopes of some peace, quiet, and solitude, only to find that others had the same idea. A campsite is already close to their own, but the couple tries to make the best of the situation and given that no one has disturbed them, that doesn’t prove to be difficult. But when no one is seen at the other campsite for a while, they look around and find it to be abandoned. This is odd, but things only get even stranger when a child appears in the woods. Sam and Ian plan to take the child to get help, but the tire on their car has gone flat and with no phone signal, they’re kind of stuck. Before Ian walks to find help, a man pulls up and offers to lend a hand in finding the child’s parents, in case they need help. He is Chook (Aaron Glenane) and soon, he and Ian head deeper into the woods, while Sam remains behind with the child. But when another man shows up and Sam hears a gunshot in the distance, she realizes that there might be more to this dark situation than she feared.
Entertainment Value: This is a popular premise, with some city slickers thrown into an isolated, remote area with unstable locals, but the concept remains relevant for a reason, it is a tense, effective formula. Killing Ground does little to subvert the usual genre tropes, but it does use a narrative method that involves parallel storylines, telling two tales side by side. This is a little odd at first, since the shifts are seamless, but the method works and breathes a little freshness into the premise. The movie tends to lean on the characters more than the narrative, which is good, as in this case, the story is rather thin and the characters have much more to offer. Ian Meadows plays the shell shocked male who struggles when confronted by the brutes, while Harriet Dyer is excellent as a woman who refuses to accept her role as a victim. She is fantastic late in the film, not giving an inch to her captor and refusing to let fear overwhelm her. This kind of movie needs effective thugs of course and we have two interesting ones here, played by Aaron Pederson and Aaron Glenane. Pederson is the quiet, but brutal type, while Glenane is a more sadistic, loudmouth persona. The two are an interesting pair and both embrace the brutish, sadistic nature of the roles. As the narrative is thin, the movie also relies on dread and violence, most of which centers on Ollie, the young boy trapped in the middle of this mess. Killing Ground builds some solid tension and dread, but I can see how some would prefer a deeper story thread, instead of atmosphere and characters being the central focus. I found this to be a solid thriller that treads familiar ground, but offers enough savagery to keep genre fans satisfied.
The movie has some intense sexual dread, but for the most part, the sexual violence isn’t shown. The creeps leer at a likely underage girl, we see the bare ass of a victim from a distance, and late in the film, Sam is groped by one of the goons. But in terms of on screen nakedness, just the distant bare ass registers. A little blood flows in this one, including a couple of splashy gun shots, a nice knife slash, and some assorted mild violence. The tone is brutal and loaded with dread, but not much happens in our line of sight, to be honest. I have to think most audiences will be on edge during the scenes where Ollie is endangered, however. So effective dread and tension, just not much on screen violence. The dialogue is fine, but not much in terms of memorable lines or banter. Chook is pretty animated, but his lines just aren’t that wild, just his frantic, unpredictable presence. Some of these movies have colorful, verbal villains, but in this case, it is more about brutality than one liners. I have to score a little craziness for the kid being in constant danger, since most movies steer clear of that kind of stuff, but otherwise, this one mostly plays well with genre conventions. It is nasty and brutal, but not all that wild or over the top.
Overall Insanity: 2/10