HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DOWNRANGE (2017)

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DOWNRANGE (2017)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

A group of teens on a road trip find their journey interrupted when they get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Soon they find out this was no accident and that their tire was shot out. They also find, to their horror, that a sadistic sniper has got them in his sights and is patiently waiting till they make the wrong move so he can brutally gun them down.

Dark and sometimes savage flick is tautly directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi, The Midnight Meat Train) from a script by he and Joey O’Bryan. There is some very gruesome violence, here and Kitamura puts these young characters through the bloody ringer as the sniper plays with them. The director also keeps tension high, as the killer waits the kids out, for their fear, the isolation and the elements to wear them down into making the wrong move. The script also simply solves the cellphone problem by having our group pinned down in an area with no signal, and uses trying to get to a signal spot a tense plot point. Add to that some clever use of the technology, as the teens try to determine their assailant’s location. If the film has anything that holds it back, somewhat, it’s that a sequence with a family in a passing car gets really over the top with the violence and gore. It’s not that the rest of the film has been subtle, but here it seems just over-indulgent, as it does in the gruesome finale. There’s nothing wrong with a good gore flick, just that this film didn’t need to go that overboard to make us understand the lead characters’ desperation and eventual rage. It was brutal enough at this point. That and it is a very simple premise to be drawn out to feature length, even at just 90 minutes, though never boring.

The young cast are very good, especially Stephanie Pearson as the tough and level-headed Keren. Kelly Connaire is also solid as the sweet and meek Jodi, who learns to overcome her timidity. Anthony Kirlew is sympathetic as the injured Eric and Rod Hernandez does well as the short tempered Todd. Rounding out the road tripping teens are Alexa Yeames as Sara and Jason Tobias as Jeff, both likable in their roles. Overall, an endearing enough bunch, so our sympathies are with them as they are trapped and tormented by this unseen assailant. The Sniper in question is played by someone named Aion Boyd, but he has no dialogue and his motives are kept ambiguous, which works very well here. Any supporting characters such as cops and the before mentioned family are paraded out quickly and disposed of as sniper fodder, to add to the hopelessness of our lead characters’ situation and for body count.

In conclusion, this is a tough, bloody and intense watch from a director whose American films have been spotty.¬†Kitamura’s Japanese films prove he is a talented filmmaker, but he has gotten little opportunity to really show that here…until maybe now. There is some savage violence and some very over-the-top gore…much like his ‘Reservoir Dogs meets Evil Dead’ film, Versus…to add to the suspense and some likable characters to fear for. It’s a very dark and nasty flick, but very effective.

Flick is currently an exclusive on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 bullets.

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