Review – Killing Ground (2017) Fantasia International Film Festival!

by Vincent Leblanc

Day 2 of the Fantasia Festival has commenced and there are two films on my schedule. I started the evening with the Canadian premiere of the Australian thriller Killing Ground that was a sold out screening.

The film was written and directed by Damien Power, his first feature film. It stars Harriet Dyer, Ian Meadows, Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glenane to name a few (not familiar with any of them). Killing Ground premiered in its own country in August 2016 at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Since then, it premiered in North America this past January at Sundance, in their Midnight Section, where it seemed to have gathered some steam. After that, it visited a handful of other festivals before ending up in Montreal.

A phella (see what I did there?) whose name I didn’t know, welcomed us to the screening. He said his name is Matthew Kiernan and that he is the social media director for the festival. Before writing this, I checked the list of the staff to make sure I had the correct job title, and found out he’s responsible for the English side of things, while there’s another guy who’s responsible for the French side.  Anyway, Mr. Kiernan amusingly described that most of the Fantasia staff have day jobs when they’re not working at the festival. In his case, he said he works for IFC Midnight, the horror/genre branch of IFC Films, for whom he also manages the social media stuff. He added that it was not a coincidence that he was there to introduce us to the film because Killing Ground is going to be distributed by IFC Midnight. He mentioned that they have two other films they’re distributing that will be screened at the festival in the upcoming days (one of which I’m seeing).

While he was there to represent the company, he said he had a giveaway for us. Available to win were a few posters of the film and DVD/Blu-rays of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. He drew several ticket stubs that they kept when they tore our tickets before entering the theater, and it was easy to match them with our seat number. Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything.  After the draw, he praised the film and started joking that, of course, we might think that it’s easy for him to say good things about their movies. But he insisted that the movie we were about to see was a very good one, intense, and a bit fucked up. As the social media guy for the festival and IFC, he then encouraged us to share our thoughts online after the movie.

If you haven’t heard about Killing Ground, here’s a synopsis for you. It comes from the official Fantasia Festival website. I edited out a bit because the less you know the better in my opinion:

“Ian and Sam are hoping for a bit of romantic alone time on New Year’s Eve when they set out on a camping trip at remote Gungilee Falls in the Australian outback. Upon their arrival, they seem to have company – a tent has been set up, though its owners are nowhere to be seen. They’re not overly concerned about this situation at first, but they should be – and once another pair of visitors, […], arrive, Ian and Sam learn too late that this sylvan setting has become hunting territory…”

I’m going to be brief because, like I said, it’s best if you know next to nothing before you guys catch this movie. I’m not even going to provide you with a trailer at the end of this text. Watch one at your own risk. What I can say is that I really enjoyed the way the director chose to tell his story during the first hour of the film. It was mysterious and tense, and it took me a little while to understand what I was watching. This is a movie with a slow, but steady pace that is pretty much always interesting.

However, I have to say that I started losing a bit of interest during the last twenty to thirty minutes when things became clearer and predictable, dare I say by the numbers. I’m not sure what I would have done differently, but it let me down a bit. We’re treated to a few graphic bits, other implied messed up elements during this movie, and there’s nothing funny about it.

The movie is shot really well in a fairly limited setting. The editing works damn well too considering the narrative. The actors did a great job throughout the film and their characters are believable, even if we don’t know much about them.

IFC Midnight acquired the North American rights for Killing Ground back at Sundance. The film will open in select theaters on July 21st and will also be available on VOD at the same time.

Killing Ground was not too far from being a hairpiece better than what I’m giving it. But I was a bit let down by the last half hour after a really solid and well told first act.

I am giving Killing Ground a 3.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!

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