Rating // 18
BATTLEGROUND | DVD REVIEW
The first impressions of this low-budget horror are that it looks a bit like a TV-movie, but don't let that put you off what turns out to be a tense, thrilling journey of shocks, suspense and stealth.
A group of rogues are on the run after carrying out a three million dollar robbery and end up in the North Michigan forests.
After a minor disagreement ends in one of them being shot to death, the crooks bury the poor guy in a shallow grave and return to their forest hideout to plan the next stage of their crime and whatever else bad guys do.
Unfortunately for them, their friend is dug up and the three million dollars is pinched from under their noses. Even more alarming, there appears to be a rather mean Albert Steptoe lurking in the trees, stalking them sniper-style and picking them off on- by-one.
There thus becomes a struggle between survival and greed – do the crooks try and get out alive or pursue the malevolent fiend who has their money?
Hugh Lambe is superb as the gun-toting baddie, a disturbed Vietnam War veteran who seems to think he is still in the jungles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail – the 'battleground'. And despite his age, he has the aim of Robin Hood and can outrun several rounds of machine gun fire with Linford Christie-like ease.
Lambe not only has the face of a villain (you could really see him spooking the Scooby Doo kids); he manages to mix charming cigar-smoking warrior with creepy redneck, whilst making you feel genuinely scared of him. His frightening demeanour even makes you root for the robbers who, let's be honest, are not very nice men.
The movie also stars Scottish actor Bryan Larkin as one of the crooks, Mitch. Larkin shines in the part, succeeding in drawing empathy for his character, despite being a ruthless criminal.
There's also commendable performances from Bob Cymbalski, a shades-wearing communist, and Lee Sandford, a terrified young woman the crooks run into who is also on the run from the crazed old man (we see a lovely flashback sequence where she is splattered by her boyfriend's brains after the hunter blows them out).
The film might be low-budget, but it succeeds in creating an authentic feeling of unease. The music in particular is subtle but sinister and really evokes a sense of tension while enhancing the shocks.
There's also some (literally) eye-popping gore that will make you gag and a twist at the end which leaves it open for a sequel.
Filled with frights and laugh-out-loud moments, Battleground is a surprisingly enjoyable guilty pleasure. Whether there is a second instalment to follow or not, Lambe's menacing character is sure to stalk your nightmares for some time.