KILLING GROUND, WOLF CREEK, & the Current State of Torture Porn

Comparing 2005’s Wolf Creek (the movie; not the newer TV adaptation) to the recently released Killing Ground acts as a sort of Australian lens through which to examine just how much the horror genre’s relationship to gruesome violence has changed over the last decade.

Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek and other Torture Porn offerings of its ilk – the name given to these sorts of movies –  reveled in depicting grotesque gore in glorious detail. These flicks, and their audiences, derived a form of cinematic carnal pleasure from the sheer spectacle of savagery. Though they were lambasted for a variety of obvious factors – largely by the same people who would object to violence ever being described as “glorious” – the best of them found the beauty in brutality that some artists have been exploring since our earliest ancestors drew war pictures on their cave abodes. Yet over time, filmmakers basically ran out of creative ways to showcase blood and guts (if you’re a fellow believer in horror trends tending to respond to the horrors of their respective eras, Guantanamo Bay – sometimes cited as the predominant inspiration for the Torture Porn fad – leaving the news also contributed to the course change). In response, recent scare-fare has focused instead on more supernatural elements, though even they have become tired in their predictability.

This fatigue resulted in the Wolf Creek-esque premise of Damien Power’s Killing Ground initially feeling almost refreshing. I was as done with torture porn as the rest of even its most diehard fans, but I never mind an occasional retro rewind to an old flame. A family being terrorized by backwater sickos?! SIGN ME UP. But since Powers seems to understand that he can’t just revive the same celluloid corpse that died for a reason, he often holds back on what he shows, preferring to unleash carnage only sporadically for maximum impact on the audience. The effect would work…if the execution of the story was more imaginative everywhere else. Instead, he relies a bit too heavily on staid Torture Porn tropes without including, you know, the actual pornographic torture that constituted the main spectacle viewers paid for. With no other significantly distinct delights in sight to fill this void, Killing Ground proves ultimately forgettable.

 

 

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