Day 2 at the Fantasia International Film Festival had me attending a sold out showing of the Australian film Killing Ground [2017] –Damien Power, which as its title suggests, has a whole bunch of death.

killing-ground-600x400 The movie follows three sets of characters on slightly off-kilter timelines: we have Sam and Ian, a newly engaged couple hoping to spend a peaceful New Year’s Eve at Gungilee Falls; Rob and Margaret on a camping trip with their teenage daughter Em and toddler Ollie; and local ex-cons German and Chook plus their dog, Banjo.

Despite the red herring that’s introduced quite early—the macabre history of “the weeping falls”—it becomes apparent about 10 minutes in that the only evil lurking in this patch of outback is human… and it’s exactly who you’d think it is. All the same, the film takes its time developing all three sets of characters, giving you a chance to get attached to each set before the timelines collide, the family meets a grim end, and the killers come for Sam and Ian in turn.

I’ll freely admit: though I did expect a campground slasher, I was a little disappointed that the film tread such familiar ground once the violence began. This isn’t my favourite type of horror movie, so when I dabble, I generally hope for something a little fresher than “some gross men have their way with the women, then brutally kill everyone.”

With all the care and time given to each character, I spent the first half of the movie convinced that the most obvious suspects would turn out to be kindly. I spent the second half wishing for a fresher take on the rape and murder. Thankfully, the story here is carried by Sam. She takes charge romantically in the film’s first few minutes, proposing to her catch of a boyfriend, then continues to lead the way, long after her aforementioned boyfriend has made a series of stupid and cowardly choices.

If traditional violence-based horror is what you like, this definitely gives it to you, in what could be a comfortingly familiar package, with the added bonus of solid character- and world-building. If this isn’t your usual cup of tea, I’d suggest holding out for something else.

 

cry aby2SHORT FILM ALERT: Though Killing Ground left me a little underwhelmed, Crybaby [2017] – Solomon Gray did the exact opposite. I thought I had it pegged in the first 30 seconds, and I was wrong. The right amount of story for the time allotted, a fresh twist, perfectly delivered. Exactly the kind of short I expected to see at Fantasia.

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