The hunting game we were waiting for. Killing Ground – movie review

Has anyone seen Eden Lake (2008)? It is that British movie starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender go on a camping trip by the lake and get assaulted by a group of twisted teenagers who turn their love escape into a terrible nightmare.

Well, Killing Ground, written and directed by Damien Power, is the Australian counterpart of Eden Lake, although better executed and acted than the already very good English film.

Killing-Ground- 3By the clever usage of non-linear storytelling, Killing Ground tells the story of a couple who go to a remote location to find peace and spend a nice weekend away from the civilisation. Soon their expectations will be let down and they’ll find themselves immersed into a mortal hunt-and-pray game where the odds are extremely adverse.

Simultaneously, though, the movie tells another story, which happened before the main one.

Other than the particular technique utilised to tell the events (never left to exposition, instead always for the viewer to figure out), Killing Ground is a straightforward horror thriller which runs for 89 minutes without a single dull moment or a sequence that makes you feel relieved.

Everything but pretentious, this flick is a pure adrenaline ride filled with compelling characters (villains included), drama, action and an overall sense of dread and tension.

The biggest achievement Mr Power reached in this movie consists of the ability to give a new look to something we have seen before tons of times.

The direction is immaculate. The editing, only external interference to the story, perfectly connects the two storylines and is refreshingly clean and subtle. The soundtrack – or I better say lack thereof – is barely noticeable but fully part of the story development.

Yet, the restraint location and limited use of actors makes for compelling characters in Killing Ground. Every single one of them is well-rounded and, pleasantly surprising, none of them is formulaic.

Shot entirely on location, the movie doesn’t use CGI throughout the entire runtime. The practicality behind every special effect cooperates to create a greedy atmosphere, despite a colourful and vivacious cinematography.

Killing-Ground 1I found myself looking in pure delight at the lack of black and white in this film: the good guys are not heroes and the villains (although fairly depicted as sadistic psychopaths) appear normal to the rest of the community and, therefore, to the audience in the scenes where they are dealing with other people.

Unapologetic without being gruesome or needing to show extreme violence on the screen, Killing Ground ends with a blast. The grand finale is, indeed, very fulfilling (something I experienced only with Get Out this year) and profound enough to make you reflect upon it for a while.

Killing ground 2Killing Ground is a film that tells a story we’ve seen tons of time, but it does it including an unconventional form of storytelling and clever twists every here and there, proving that a movie can be (incredibly) good without overturning schemes.

With Killing Ground, Australia proves once again to be a fertile ground (sorry about the pan!) for great horror entertainment. I honestly can’t wait to see what Damien Power will come up with next. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend to watch this film, one of the best I’ve seen the whole year. Cheers!

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Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #3 The Crazies

*Skip the premise if you already read my first posts of the list*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

thecrazies2010

The Crazies (2010) is a zombie-mystery horror film directed by Breck Eisner, whose latest movie is the awesome masterwork broadly known as Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter. Just kidding, The Last Shit Crapper is one of the worst movies of 2015.

Fortunately for us, The Crazies plays in another league. Basically, it tells the story of sheriff David Dutten (played awesomely by Timothy Olyphant, in one of his career best roles) who lives in a small American Stephen-King-type-of-town.

The movie starts quite abruptly with the main character trying to deal, from the very beginning, with people going bad shit crazy in his home town.

Quite an opening, right? Apart from that though, the movie is not original and it follows the trite stereotype of the zombie contagion that turns everyone into a ravenous douchebag trying to eat brains. Being a remake of the very successful – but flowed by any means – 1973 movie of the same name, the originality factor is discarded per se. Despite of these very little promising hints, the movie itself is quite a surprise.

The fast opening sets the tone for the entire flick, throughout which fast-paced and well-directed scenes follow one another with almost no breaks. The tension is palpable in every moment and the rhythm is faster than the audience should expect. From this point of view as well as from how the zombies are realized, I strongly believe World War Z took inspiration from the Breck Eisner’s film.

Despite the speed of the movie, the characters are compelling and well portrayed by the cast. To me, Mr. Eisner nailed the direction in this movie, first being able to introduce the story with numerous breath-taking sequences and secondly sketching out the protagonists step by step. In particular, there is a scene where Sheriff David, his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) are left behind and carless in the middle of an highway and they start to argue to blame each other. This scene is filled with minute details of the characters’ thoughts as well as with tension and desperation. Excellent acting and direction.

crazies

Yet, another important feature in this movie is the one element that could have been a deadly flaw for the film itself. And it was something that, as a viewer, I was really afraid of. In fact, the movie is obviously divided in three acts, which take place in different locations though – one in the small town, the second into a military camp, the last along the highway. This variety could have caused a vibe change within the movie, but all in all it gave a plus instead.

In conclusion, The Crazies definitely belongs to the list of those movies that deserve more than they have been given in terms of critiques and general appreciation. It’s beyond the shadow of a doubt an interesting movie that provides the audience with tension, entertainment, good performances and decent practical effects. The ‘rewatchability’ factor is at a good grade in this movie.

In my humble opinion, a couple of scenes even elevate this movie to the level of a must see. On the other hand, the unoriginal plot and the lame finale scale it down to the place it deserves – that of a fun, well made, surprisingly good ride everyone should take a chance to watch. Cheers.