Landing exclusively on VOD platform Shudder, Ryûhei Kitamura’s latest offering Downrange taps into the taut, claustrophobic style of classics like the original Assault on Precinct 13 and The Hitcher with Rutger Hauer.
Kitamura was a high school drop out in his native Osaka, Japan, who subsequently relocated to Australia, where he studied at a visual arts school, making short films and graduating to features upon his return to Japan.
Kitamura made his American debut in 2008 with the horror-fest fave Midnight Meat Train, based on Clive Barker’s 1984 short story. He certainly is in a similar blood-soaked mode here.
Like the recent blockbuster A Quiet Place, the premise is kept simple to keep the audience on their feet. The reaction so far has been mixed amongst online and press reviewers, but this writer personally feels it gives what it sets out to do.
Six college students are driving out in the open countryside when their vehicle has a blow-out. One of them needs to get to a party, others are simply trying to get where they need to go. In the midst of changing a tyre, the chilling discovery that this was not so much a blow-out as a blown-out begins, the mental wheels turning.
Before long, however, the shocking realisation that there is an unseen sniper in the trees nearby ready to finish them off - with no cover around to shelter them - sets up a desperate fight for survival…
We have to say that Downrange is, first and foremost, conceived with the intention of being a straightforward crowd pleaser. You can certainly imagine this film playing at FrightFest in the 11 pm slot on a Friday or Saturday. This certainly is the perfect beer-and-curry tonic for the weekend.
The film takes a familiar premise that has played for ages over the decades in the style of Duel, Open Water, and Wolf Creek, utilising an antagonist without motive trying to kill the students. The performances are solid, with a dark, desperate humour as the sniper carries out its intent to kill.
Given the recent gun-related tragedies in the USA, the timing of the film’s release means that it is not a movie that is going to appeal to the anti-gun control lobbies across the world and inevitably will create calls for a boycott of this type of entertainment like in previous decades.
If, however, you watch this with the sole intent of reading it as a pure horror entertainment as a pure horror fan, then let the blood flow. Downrange certainly delivers and holds the attention, especially when the film moves into the second half towards a climactic and satisfying pay-off.
DOWNRANGE /CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RYÛHEI KITAMURA / SCREENPLAY: RYÛHEI KITAMURA, JOEY O’BRYAN / STARRING: KELLY CONNAIRE, STEPHANIE PEARSON, ROD HERNANDEZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW