Australia

Boar

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There are many things that can kill you in Australia. In one remote part of the outback, there is a wild boar on the loose. This isn’t your average wild boar and it is out for blood. One family unwittingly wandered into the beast’s territory. They are in for the fight of their lives.

I remember first hearing about Boar a few years ago, but then it drifted off my radar. Now, it is being released as a Shudder exclusive. The film is written and directed by Chris Sun of Charlie’s Farm fame, which makes the reference to Charlie’s Farm in this film even more hilarious. I’m generally a fan of the killer animal subgenre of horror. Fans of other killer animal flicks such as Razorback and Lake Placid will definitely enjoy Boar. The plot is appropriately simple and doesn’t bog itself down by creating an elaborate backstory for why the boar is so huge. Instead, the focus is on the ensuing carnage caused by the boar and the people it terrorizes.

While the focus of Boar is clearly the savage kills, it does a surprisingly good job of including character development. There are two families who get the most screen time. They are introduced in fairly organic ways and the audience is given time to get to know them. This is an important aspect of horror films because if the audience doesn’t care if the characters live or die, then the tension and suspense will be lost. Yet the filmmakers wisely placate the boar’s (and the audience’s) thirst for blood by throwing in a few kills of random characters along the way.

Almost all of the main characters are likable, with one exception, but the performances are just okay. Audiences don’t necessarily expect Oscar-worthy performances from killer animal horror films, so there isn’t anything wrong with that. My personal favorite performance is Melissa Tkautz (Game Room, Houses) as Sasha. She is the independent and strong-willed bar owner in the small town. Tkautz makes Sasha an enjoyable character by making her both sassy and charming. Probably the most well-known actor in Boar is Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2) as Bruce. Bruce is the lone American of the group and he’s basically a kindhearted dork. This is a nice departure for Moseley as most horror fans know him as a villain. Nathan Jones (Charlie’s Farm, Mad Max: Fury Road) plays Bruce’s brother-in-law, Bernie. Jones is a beast of a man, which makes it hilarious to see how the men fear him yet he is so sweet to all the ladies. The dynamics between each of the main characters draws the audience in so we want them to outlive the boar.

The effects team behind Boar uses a combination of practical and CGI effects. For most of the shots of the massive beast the effects are entirely practical. These effects are honestly a bit on the hokey side, but even that seems to be par for the course when it comes to killer animal movies. The practical effects for the boar are still impressive just because of the sheer size it had to be built in. For the scenes where there is more wide shot action, such as when the boar runs around, the team went with CGI. The CGI isn’t quite as good as the practical effects, but it doesn’t detract from the overall appeal of the creature design.

Boar delivers on laughs, excitement, and one killer animal. The plot is simple, but gives the audience enough to keep them engaged. This is helped by having a group of likable characters. Much of the acting and the effects are average, but the film makes up for it by being fun to watch. If the allure of watching a killer boar on the loose isn’t enough to get people to watch this film, then the star-power behind Bill Moseley’s name definitely will.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Killing Ground

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A couple goes on a New Year’s Eve camping trip in the Australian Outback. When they reach their lonely campsite the couple notices another tent. After staying one night they realize the owners of the tent haven’t returned. It soon becomes clear that something bad happened to the fellow campers. When the couple finds a toddler wandering alone near the campsite they decide it’s time to get help. Soon the couple regrets ever coming to this seemingly idyllic campground.

Killing Ground has a plot that isn’t extraordinarily original. It is an intense thriller packed with rape, torture, and murder. Yet there are aspects of this film that make it stand out from other films with similar plots. One interesting part of the story is that it is told in a more modular format rather than a linear story. The main focus is the young couple, but we learn fragments of what happened to the family whose tent gets left behind. It is very effective storytelling to show the two storylines side by side, while one is in the past and one the present, until the two finally converge. It adds a bit of interest to an otherwise average story. Another element that adds intrigue to the plot is the addition of the toddler. Saving yourself from murderous people is difficult enough on its own. Add a child into the mix and things become much more stressful and chaotic.

There are two main pieces of the plot that I need to commend the filmmakers for. The first has to do with the rape in this film. The filmmakers made the wise decision to show what happens before and after, but not the act itself. Seeing the aftermath of a rape scenario can be effective in getting the point across to audiences without having to show the rape take place. In the wake of remakes like Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, I appreciate the less is more approach used in Killing Ground. Another aspect the filmmakers do an excellent job with is creating honest reactions to the events taking place. I won’t go too far into it because it may reveal some spoilers, but I will say in most thrillers the characters always somehow manage to keep a cool head and someone always comes in to be the hero. While I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in Killing Ground, many of the actions by the characters are more realistic and people react in ways I personally have always thought people would truly do in these situations.

This is yet another film from the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival that is very well acted by the entire cast. Specifically, the four leads do a fantastic job. Aaron Pedersen (Goldstone, Jack Irish) plays level-headed and deadly German. He is almost a mentor in this film, but unfortunately he teaches his pupil ways to maim and kill without getting caught. Pedersen’s performance is quite unsettling because of the way he portrays German’s calm demeanor, no matter what is going on around him. Aaron Glenane (Molly, Truth) is also fantastic as Chook, German’s willing student. Glenane’s performance may be even more disturbing than Pedersen’s. At first Chook seems a bit unsure of what the diabolic duo are doing, but once he gets a taste for blood Glenane shows us how much enjoyment Chook gets out of it. The two are polar opposites, German being calculated and relaxed, Chook being erratic and inexperienced. Another strong performance comes from Harriet Dyer (Love Child, Down Under) as Sam. Dyer portrays Sam as a sweet and caring person with an inner strength that allows her to step up when she needs to. Then finally there is Ian Meadows (The Wrong Girl, The Turning) as Sam’s medical school boyfriend Ian. Ian’s medical background makes him a helping kind of person, but he is still human, and Meadows shows that side of Ian perfectly. The common thread between all four of these characters, especially the couple, is that their actions and reactions feel authentic. They make the audience feel less like they are watching a movie, and more like they are watching actual horrific events.

Killing Ground is one of the most disturbing films I have seen in recent years. It’s not necessarily because of the events that take place, since those are things seen in other films, but it is because of the way the characters are written. While there are clearly “bad guys” in this story, there are still good people who make poor decisions. It blurs some of the lines that distinguish good and bad, and the actors that play these characters do a phenomenal job. This is not a story for the faint of heart, but it is truly an intense and grisly film.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10