Battleground – Skeleton Lake (2012)
Directed by: Neil Mackay | 90 minutes | action, horror, thriller | Actors: Bryan Larkin, Hugh Lambe, Bob Cymbalski, Robert Nolan, Mark Munro, Damon E. White, Frank Ieraci, Lee Sandford, Bass Stewart, Ramen Zarafshan, Ryan Borg, Sean McAulay, Merella Fernandez
‘Battleground’ is a low-budget film about a group of “friends” who end up in a cabin in the woods and are systematically murdered there by a crazy resident of the area. It sounds like a dime a dozen horror movie and in a way the movie is, but the movie is often clichéd in a different way than you might think. First of all, this isn’t about a bunch of stupid teenagers but a bunch of (male) bank robbers. Second, there is no big-breasted bimbo who has sex, and then becomes the first victim (because of her sins). Although there is also a young woman with large breasts present, her clothes remain on and she also remains alive (for a long time). Third, the villain here isn’t an oily inbred, but a rather intelligent, philosophical Vietnam veteran. The character type is far from original (think Marlon Brando’s role in ‘Apocalypse Now’, for example), and even in a modern setting – and outside of Vietnam – this has been done before in ‘First Blood’, but then the main character was still (initially) the victim who was cornered. ‘Battleground’ is like a collage of other films and characters, with a very simple storyline, yet with enough action and suspense to keep your attention.
Actually, ‘Battleground’ has been interesting from the start – reminiscent of ‘Reservoir Dogs’. We see the result of a robbery: the men flee in a van, with a large bag of money, while one of them is moaning because of a gunshot wound. We don’t know what happened, but later learn that they shot at officers, even though they didn’t mean to. The (still) missing information about the robbery itself and about the relationship between the robbers, between which there is a rather explosive atmosphere, keeps it interesting. After all, it is expected that more and more will become clear about these people. However, this promise never appears to be fulfilled, partly because the film, after the men have found their hiding place in the forest, suddenly takes on a completely different shape.
They are soon being hunted in the forest, but not by a group of policemen, but by a single man with a gun and some booby traps. When his presence is just announced, by a trembling, terrified woman, he is not even portrayed as human, but more as some kind of ghost or evil force. The introduction through the frightened woman, his “invisibility” in the forest, the way he slaughters the men one by one for no apparent reason, is very reminiscent of ‘Predator’, in which the elusive, mostly invisible villain was an alien. , which brought the jungle to life. The villain in ‘Battleground’ even collects trophies from his victims in a similar fashion, and the scene where the bank robbers all empty their guns at the trees and bushes is practically one-on-one copied from the Schwarzenegger vehicle mentioned above.
Yet these familiar elements are not very disturbing because director Neil Mackay knows how to keep up the momentum and it remains at the very least interesting to find out how the next murder will take place, who will lose out, and if anyone is still alive at all. will survive. The acting isn’t top-notch and the characters are anything but sympathetic, but you’ll sympathize with some of them as a viewer. When one of the most unsympathetic figures of the bunch is forced into a game of Russian roulette, the scene – however cliché in itself – turns out to be quite nerve-wracking and you hope the poor bastard will win.
‘Battleground’ is a hodgepodge of clichés, but it is a fairly interesting hodgepodge. Perhaps the crazy veteran could have come from a war other than the Vietnam War and the characters could have been shaped a little more, but otherwise there is not much to criticize about this entertaining b-movie. Mind you, it’s not just an action movie – there are also some pretty gruesome and gory horror moments in the movie. ‘Battleground’ is probably not a movie that will be watched by many with the faint of heart, but you never know.