Unhappy campers

Killing Ground

All Australian campers know this: Along with snakes and One Nation-voters, Wolf Creek’s Mick Taylor is out there, right? So perhaps inner city-boy Ian (Ian Meadows) shouldn’t have asked scary bushie “German” (Aaron Pederson) directions to the site where he and Sam (Harriet Dyer) were planning a romantic night alone together. Wasn’t that non-hipster beard a giveaway? Surely his snarling pig-dog was. Actually, when they get to the river deep in a State forest (in a pissy 2wd Mazda, how dopey can you get?) they find another tent. They stay anyway, but where are its occupants? Then they find a two-year-old toddler all alone… This is Damien Power’s first feature, and though working with well-worn genre tropes, deftly ratchets up the tension while jiggling between different stories and time frames involving the earlier campers and German’s lame-brained mate “Chook” (Aaron Glenane). Then he buries us in white-knuckle suspense and some truly harrowing violence. But the genius of his film is the way it slyly subverts stereotypes and then packs a low-down dirty punch. It’s a knockout. Girls, choose your campfire companions carefully… MA15+ In cinemas (including Palace Norton St) from Aug 24.

Q&A event at Palace Norton Street on Wednesday, 23 Aug at 7pm. The director of Killing Ground Damien Power and star Harriet Dyer will answer your question. Details here


The other significant arthouse release this week is a less harrowing affair. The wild landscapes of Nova Scotia make for a stunning backdrop to an unusual love story, with Sally Hawkins playing Maud Lewis, one of Canada’s most beloved folk artists. When we first meet her she’s fleeing her unbearable family for the company of cranky reclusive fish peddler Everett in his two-room shack. She’s nearly crippled by arthritis and he treats her appallingly. (Wow, Ethan Hawke as an abusive jerk, what was his agent thinking?) He hires her as a housekeeper, but when he turns up in her bed, she reckons, “If you’re going to do that, we’ll have to get married.” And so begins a long and strange life/creative partnership – one in which her talents as a naïve painter are nurtured and eventually prosper. Everett does change, and Aisling Walsh’s film becomes an emotionally wrought but inspiring love-triumphs-over-adversity story – one that benefits hugely from the actors’ muscular, big-hearted performances. It’s a real slow-burn charmer. PG from Aug 24.

Reviews – Russell Edwards