Horror works the best when it’s at its tight minimalism. “Killing Ground” is a lean and pure genre exercise, but too content with modesty. It doesn’t earn its thrills.
The bare-bones script doesn’t have much on its mind and comes off as a thinly sketched launching pad for limp scares. The first act balances three rotating stories and characters detailing familial tensions before they slowly intervene after an unsettling discovery. Said inciting incident then becomes increasingly implausible and contrived for the low-key film to sustain. The characters are mostly shallow and one-dimensional, while the script goes through typical “Stalked in the woods” horror traits without much enthusiasm. You really need a game cast to bring terror to the surface, and unfortunately the bland cast fails to bring a sense of urgency and history to the roles. Ian Meadows and Harriet Dyer as the loving couple fare as well as they could, but they just simply don’t possess the screen presence to make their relationship blossom in the later, more horrific stages of the film. Aaron Pedersen does brooding in the laziest way imaginable, while his protege in crime is portrayed by a dismaying and overzealous Aaron Glenane.
Damien Power contains an interesting eye as a visual instigator and revels in the dreadful environment– he has a simmering knack for following behind his characters and captures the off-color woods in strong panoramas. But his vision here is a cheap one that too often veers into manipulation and exploitation. Crossover appeal can await him once he finds a way to sculpt humanity. [C]