It’s exciting when there are film festivals on. TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is one of the best and Downrange premiered there last year.
Downrange is a horror, thriller bag of delight which airs on Shudder.com April 2018.
Mr. MovieHooker was feeling generous this week. He knew I had a soft spot for Midnight Meat Train (it’s actually a favorite of mine) and asked me to review Downrange. When I saw him fondly reminiscing about his love for Versus, I stayed up way too late to watch it that night. I totally would have arm wrestled for it though.
What’s It About? (Official)
Stranded at the side of the road after a tyre blowout, a group of friends becomes targets for an enigmatic sniper.
There is a longer version of this synopsis, but trust me, it’s better this way.
Cast: Kelly Connaire (Jodi), Stephanie Pearson (Keren), Rod Hernandez-Farella (Todd), Anthony Kirlew (Eric), Alexa Yeames (Sara), Jason Tobias (Jeff).
Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura. Screenplay by: Joey O’Bryan. They both wrote the story.
How Was It?
In my rush to see Downrange before MovieHooker, I didn’t read the synopsis or watch a trailer. I’ve seen it now and it’s good. I’m glad I watched it after though.
What I saw was a group of young people carpooling to various places and their tyre blows out. They are in the middle of nowhere. While the boys set about changing the tyre, some chat and check their phones. Others attempt to update statuses online with varying degrees of success due to intermittent phone coverage. The enormity of the group’s isolation is perfectly set by camera angles that show each direction of the road. Each way looking as though they lead to nothing but horizon.
The only prop is the car they are in, yet this becomes their means of safety. When the action starts, I could not un-glue my eyes from the screen. I have seen reviewers describe movies of this type as ‘fun.’ For those that tend to attribute that word to merciless killing, then you are in for a treat. You might be the type to silently applaud with glee when another character gets mowed down. Grab a beer and take bets on who’s going to die next.
Me, I become inspired by a movie’s ability to stick to a well-trodden formula and predictable storyline and still have that absolutely annihilating ‘holy crap’ moment. It’s like striking gold when it happens more than once. Downrange managed to do exactly that and then plant a surprise present. So what if you can predict a few outcomes? So what if you can tell a character’s actions will result in something that doesn’t benefit them? When the atmosphere and pacing is spot on, what’s not to like?
Sit back and enjoy the unpretentious expertise of a filmmaker who grabbed a few friends (Taro Maki and Ko Mori) and made a movie that just shows you a good time.
The entire cast is not complete unknowns which might be why I felt comfortable with the ensemble early on. I particularly took a shine to Todd (Rod Hernandez) only to discover this is his first feature film. In any case, I liked the characters a lot despite the formulaic and innocent nature of them.
I’ve seen a lot of ‘thinking’ films 2017 had to offer. Sometimes though, it’s tiresome. I like a good slasher. But good ones are few and far between. Most aren’t executed in a way that both excites and satiates me.
I consider Kitamura the king of atmospheric tension. Having him behind a low-budget single location slasher film is like going home to Grandmas for a baked dinner on Sunday. You just can’t beat it. When I saw in the press release that Kitamura and O’Bryan created the concept to hone in on films like Duel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Hitcher, I knew why I began to think about one or two of those films afterward.
I give Downgrade
4 John Ryder’s not dead, he’s got camouflage out of 5
Words by Vanessa Stewart Gary Gamble is the founder, editor and chief of Moviehooker. My website vanessasnonspoilers.com Don't forget, if you like it,share it!
adj., adv. Traveling in a specified direction away from the launch site and toward the target: ‘rounds streaked downrange at more than a mile a second’.
In a war zone — Military Slang