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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.24.17] Australia horror

One of the much buzzed about titles out of this past year's Sundance Film Festival Midnight program was a new Australian horror movie titled Killing Ground.

Outback horror is not new to North American audiences but writer/director Damien Power's debut feature is of particular note for the humanity it brings to both the victims and the perpetrators, something which is often overlooked in horror movies which are more interested in the gore than providing insight into characters - particularly the ugly ones.

Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) leave the city for a weekend of camping. The pair arrive at their secluded spot and find the area is already occupied but their temporary neighbours are no where to be seen.

The couple's so-far uneventful trip soon turns chaotic when the pair encounter a baby boy wandering through the nearby woods. Things quickly get worse when the couple returns to their car to find a flat tire but things get really ugly when the pair encounter Chook (Aaron Glenane) and later his friend German (Aaron Pedersen), a pair of locals responsible for the missing owners of the abandoned tent.

I recently had a chance to pose a few questions to Australian actor Aaron Glenane about what appealed to him about the role, what the atmosphere was like on set and he dished a little on his upcoming: project Larysa Kondracki's "Picnic at Hanging Rock."

Killing Ground is now screening in limited release and is available on VOD.

Congratulations on the movie. Killing Ground is unique in that, for a change, we actually get some insight into the 'bad guys.' That doesn't do your character any favours! What was it about the role that appealed to you?

I remember getting to the end of Damien's script and sitting in silence for 5 - 10 minutes feeling shocked. I remember asking myself "What would I really do in that situation? Not my 'superhero' self. But me." It challenged me to ask some primal questions of who I am. To have that visceral reaction to a script is incredibly exciting. And the character of Chook was a man who's heinous actions seemed to come from nowhere, without rhyme or reason, and understanding what motivated him was the challenge of this role that I just couldn't deny.

There are a few moments, particularly early but even well into the second act, when it seems Chook might be a bit slow on the take and more of a follower but you play that really subtly - in some scenes there's a real inner struggle that comes through in your performance. How did you prepare for the role? Was there anything different about preparing for this role than preparing for other roles?

It was incredibly important to me that I not play Chook as a one-dimensional 'villain.' The strength in the script is its realism. People are a whole lot more terrifying if you can see they have an emotional life... whatever that may be. German introduces Chook into a world that very few of us have been in. So it made sense to me that there would be incredible hesitation, uncertainty and a sense of resistance to that. I imagine that Chook has come from a world of deep and constant rejection, so for him to be encouraged into a sense of power is something that is unexpectedly pleasurable and exhilarating for Chook.

I often start the work on my characters with living in the characters occupation and absorbing the world. I've lived in some sketchy parts of Sydney, especially when I first moved out of home before the inner west had been gentrified. There is a darkness that can take hold due to socio economics, alcohol, drugs, relationships the list goes on.

I also spent time with 'Glenn the hunter.' He helped me understand how to hold a rifle, own it like it's an extension of you, how to round up a bunch of boars at once, where to set the target, all things that were vital to how Chook lived his life and saw the world.

The movie is pretty intense and I'm curious about the process of filming. Was it intense on the set or did Damien keep things light?

It was intense! One particular day we were shooting a scene where Aaron and I are walking up the path and across the ravine was a rusted out old car that was hanging on the edge of a steep precipice and I just thought "How the hell did that get here?!" The environment really set the tone! Obviously, the content is confronting yet we had the most incredible cast and camaraderie amongst one another. We built up a strong sense of trust where we were able to dive head first into the characters Damien had written and not soften the edges. Harriet Dyer is one of Australia's great comedy actresses so she was hilarious and Aaron Pedersen sure knew how to break a heavy moment with a laugh or two.

Was there anything in particular that helped keep you sane during the shoot?

Ha the hardest part was to stay insane throughout the shoot! It's challenging being in a state of anger, frustration and anxiety for 12 hours every day but when the camera starts to roll, it's game time. After playing Chook, I understand why actors take a break after certain roles. You need to check back in with you!

Aaron Pedersen is a legend. What was it like working with him?

He's terrifying in this isn't he! He's the greatest actor that I've worked alongside in that his generosity is unlike anything I've come across. He and I would spend an endless amount of time on set discussing scenes and what was happening between the two of us. We would constantly be trying new things and finding ways to improve the scene. He would always look over at me and say "Take it personal brother" before action. But with Aaron, it's never about him, it's always about the story.

Is there one thing you learned - one take-away - from this set that you'll take with you to future projects?

Aaron once said to me "I bring my culture and my ancestors' stories to the work. I'm just the most recent version of them. Someone will come along after and they will continue the story. But right now, it's up to me." That is the most selfless & powerful thing a storyteller can do and I've implemented it ever since.

Finally - is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming "Picnic at Hanging Rock?"

Yes! Picnic at Hanging Rock has been acquired by Amazon Studios and will be released across US screens in 2018. You guys seem to have an interest in misfortunes happening in the wilderness! This reimaging of Joan Lindsay's classic tale is going to be a gothic ride into turn of the century Australia.

I had a blast getting to share the screen with Natalie Dormer who as Mrs. Appleyard is a graceful yet ruthless force to be reckoned with. And Yael Stone, talk about someone who morphs into characters, she creates an incredibly complex and compelling, devoutly religious and constrained deportment mistress on a mission of faith.

Our amazing director, Larysa Kondracki makes some bold editorial choices and used amazing in camera effects to lull the audience into questioning what is real and what is not! It's going to send a shiver up your spines!

Killing Ground is now screening in limited release and is available on VOD.

Recommended Release: Wolf Creek

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