The grindhouses closed a long time ago, driven out by adventurous viewers’ ability to feed their seedier tastes at home. But the grindhouse spirit lives on, often assuming some complex, thoughtful shapes even while delivering on a promise of lurid thrills. It seems to have found a particularly welcoming home in Australia of late, based on the appearance of Hounds of Love earlier this year and now Killing Ground, an impressive and unsettling first feature from Damien Power set in a remote patch of Australian wilderness that becomes a, well, check the title.
Things start well enough for Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) when they decide to spend New Year’s Eve camping at a lakeside spot far away from the rest of the world, or at least as far away as a short trip will allow. Sure, Ian spends a little time talking about his work as a doctor and Sam doesn’t leave all thoughts of her publishing work behind her. But this is a weekend about them. So they set up a tent on the edge of the water (and out of range of cell reception), make some plans to hike up to the falls, and express only mild disappointment when the presence of a nearby tent means they’ll have to have sex quietly so as not to bother their neighbors. It’s not a perfect situation, but it’ll do. One weird thing though: they never see their neighbors come out of their tent.
We do, however. They’re a close, happy family of four. Sure, the dad (Julian Garner) spends a little too much time strumming Simon & Garfunkel songs for his teenager daughter’s (Tiarnie Coupland) taste. But his wife (Maya Stange) doesn’t mind, and everyone dotes over Ollie, their sweet toddler. They’re having a lovely time together. So why can’t Ian and Sam see them? And how is it that they found a tiny hat with Ollie’s name in it while doing a bit of hiking?