Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Movie Review: Downrange

Downrange ** / *****
Directed by: Ryûhei Kitamura.
Written by: Ryûhei Kitamura & Joey O'Bryan.
Starring: Kelly Connaire (Jodi), Stephanie Pearson (Keren), Rod Hernandez (Todd), Anthony Kirlew (Eric), Alexa Yeames (Sara), Jason Tobias (Jeff), Aion Boyd (Rifleman).
It should probably be impossible to make a dull movie out of the premise of Downrange. It’s basically six attractive college students, on a remote road in the middle of nowhere, who blow a tire. As they try and fix it, they realize that it wasn’t an accident at all – that there is a man with a sniper rifle gunning them down, one by one. They have no cell service and can only hide behind their car for so long before either he’ll get them all, or someone else shows up. It’s a simple premise, and should make for a quick, nasty little genre piece – full of scares, and bloodletting, etc. And yet, somehow director Ryuhei Kitamura has made a film that is essentially one long bore.
The problems start in the first act, when Kitamura and co-writer Joey O’Bryan spend an almost absurd amount of time trying to build these characters up. In theory, this is a good idea – make the audience care about the characters before you start killing them off. The problem is that the film doesn’t make any of them interesting, and the cast of unknowns is largely as dull as the writing. By the time shots actually start ringing out, and bodies start hitting the concrete, you’re almost relieved, because at least something of interest is happening.
From there, not a whole lot happens for the middle stretch of the film. Two are already dead, three of the others are hiding behind the SUV they were driving, and another is further away, behind a giant tree stump. They spend a long time debating what to do, and coming up with one not so great idea after another. Eventually we know however that the end game has to start – which basically happens with the arrival of another car.
This is the type of film that requires you to suspend your disbelief pretty much from the beginning. This is, of course, one of those areas that exist in every horror movie where your cellphone doesn’t get a signal, so you cannot call for help – and is also such a remote area that hours will go by between the time you see cars, even if it looks like a regular rural highway (why do these kids take this highway? Good question). The sniper seems almost superhuman in his ability to pick them off with only the slightest bit of movement or opportunity, and also seems to have unlimited ammo.
I could overlook all of those factors if Downrange had other things going for it – seriously, look at many horror movie plots, and you’ll see a lot of idiocy threaded throughout the plots. But the movie doesn’t really do a good job at building up the tension in the film either. The violence, when it comes, is almost over-the-top in its depictions of gore, which almost makes it seem comedic it’s so ridiculous – which, of course, doesn’t help you take the movie all that seriously. The ending felt like a cheat as well – a cheap way to get one final twist in.
In short, while Shudder does get a fair amount of decent exclusives on its horror movie streaming site, Downrange strikes me as the type that they bought because no one else wanted it. It’s too silly to take seriously, and not enough fun to be a guilty pleasure.

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