DOWNHILL [FrightFest 2016]

PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

Who would’ve thought mountain bike racing would result in death and mayhem? Downhill is one of the latest survival horror thrillers to play at this year’s FrightFest, and for the most part, it delivers on its premise and more. For the first 30-40 minutes, introduces us to the main two protagonists, the traumatic accident they witnessed, during which their best friend died during a race, and how they interact as a couple before the grizzly stuff kicks in. The film moves at a steady pace and atmosphere is unnervingly chilling throughout, yet the direction the narrative goes in is all over the place. As soon as you start trying to work out and solve one scenario, three more get thrown into the mix, and as a result, the narrative does lose some of its focus.

The couple is trying to recover from their best friend’s death, then they decide to vacate to Chile to take part in a new race, only to find a man who is dying from some form of contagious virus, but then shortly afterwards, they happen to come across a group of people who do not want our couple to leave Chile alive. Oh, and there just happens to be a random short scene of adultery for some… reason. There are so many ideas at play, the film itself feels as though it can’t quite decide on a direction and sticking with it throughout. As soon as the group of gun-toting whack jobs starts hunting down our protagonists, that’s when the movie really kicks into gear and the survival horror element comes into play, which is where the movie finds its feet the most. The action is intense, the haunting atmosphere swells, and the performer’s shine a lot.

Bryce Draper was perfectly solid as the male lead, whilst Natalie Burn excels as the central female protagonist and perfectly shows how she’s slowly becoming a true rising star in the making after the recent Awaken/Left to Die. The infected creature effects are very eerily grotesque and hark back to the ground-breaking effects work of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The cinematography does tend to be on the murky side, yet that doesn’t detract from the film’s brooding atmosphere, which is amplified thanks to its menacing score. For a low-budget indie film, this movie doesn’t even look half-bad, and it’s quite clear that Patricio Valladares did everything possible to make his film look as good a horror film as possible.

Downhill is overall a strange movie as defined by its multitude of ideas that go all over the place and can result in some bat-shit crazy moments, plus the final five minutes might make certain audiences frustrated. However, the fact that Patricio Valladares just went for it and thrown so many enticing ingredients into an already spicy soup is commendable and that makes the film more enjoyable than it sounds. Should the film have a more clear direction then perhaps it would’ve been much better, but as an attempt to be something different to what we normally get out of horror movie these days, you might be pleasantly surprised in what is a bizarre survivalist horror thriller on acid.


Expected rating: 6 out of 10
Actual Rating:  

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