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Dustin Putman

Killing Ground  (2017)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: November 7, 2017) – Adeptly building palls of unease and impending doom through its shifting-timelines narrative, Aussie survival thriller "Killing Ground" treads across familiar territory but does so in a way that feels fresh. There is also something to be said for sheer filmmaking know-how, of which writer-director Damien Power (making his auspicious feature debut) has plenty. Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) are a happy young couple camping out for New Year's Eve on a remote riverside beach. A family—parents Chris (Stephen Hunter) and Margaret (Maya Stange), teenager Em (Tiarnie Coupland) and baby Ollie (Liam and Riley Parkes)—are doing the same thing a stone's throw down from them. And German (Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane) are locals who, it is quickly revealed, have committed an unspeakable crime and may be about to do it again. These three threads are destined to converge, and as the inevitable sinks in for the viewer it does not hurt the story's momentum but actually increases one's anxiety over what, when and how two life-or-death struggles are about to play out.

"Killing Ground" is primal and nerve-shredding, a savvily constructed horror film of very real human monsters and innocent victims staring death in the face. There's a little "Wolf Creek" and a little "Eden Lake" in its DNA, but the confidence of its script and the catharsis of its performances ensures it isn't simply a derivative redux. Eliciting restraint without shrinking away from the brutality of each situation, director Damien Power ensures his picture never wades into demeaning exploitation. Still, the proceedings can be uncomfortable, as they should be, its most fascinating dichotomy laying with the human psychology of characters who choose to either close their eyes and wait to die, or do whatever it takes to get out of their ordeal alive.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

The name of the game is gritty realism when it comes to "Killing Ground," and its 1080p transfer is a superb representation of such. With no irksome technical or encoding anomalies to be found, no signs of banding or moiré or edge-enhancement in sight, this high-definition treatment is free to provide a clean, detailed picture. There is a slight yellowish tint to skin tones and such, but this is a direct result of color grading and lighting, and how it is intended. Black levels are deep and free of crush, the rustic greenery of its woodsy setting features impeccable clarity, and little details like fine lines on faces and sweat and dirt are well-defined. This is an excellent transfer all around. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is solid. While much of the film is on the quieter side, dialogue is always clear and suitably modulated. When the action ramps up in the second half, so does the track's activity and subtle yet effective use of surrounds.

Blu-ray Features
  • Trailer (2:11, HD)
Bottom Line
"Killing Ground" premiered to positive reviews at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was promptly bought for distribution by IFC Films through its genre arm IFC Midnight. Now on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, this unsettling, cleverly constructed suspenser should enthrall and satisfy fans of reality-based horror. While bonus content is disappointingly light, the strength of the film itself is more than worthy of a recommendation.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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