TIFF 2017: Downrange Review

Midnight Madness

Japanese director Ryûhei Kitamura has crafted a bloody and relentless exercise in perseverance with his latest film, Downrange.  In an interview (coming soon) with Dork Shelf, Kitamura explained that he wants all of his films to feature people fighting back no matter what.  That is quite clear in Downrange.

The setup for the film is simple: six friends on a road trip get a flat tire and things quickly escalate from there.   What makes this movie scary is the fact that this situation could possibly happen to anyone.  The six friends must stay alive as someone is attempting to pick them off one at a time from a distance.  There’s no backstory for the villain of this story.  He is faceless for the majority of the film and our heroes simply have to survive his attacks in the scorching sun without the luxuries of protection or shade.

There’s no need for zombies, or other supernatural foes in this film.  The tension and scares come from the fact that the group is stranded and facing off against an enemy they can’t reason with or even see.  This makes our six heroes immediately sympathetic and the audience immediately ill-at-ease.  Downrange is an endurance test for the characters and the audience as the camera placement in most scenes makes you feel like you’re trying to survive with the group.  There are very few moments where you’ll feel the group is safe enough to take some time and rest which helps keep the action going the full 90 minutes.

It’s truly something that Ryûhei Kitamura and his cast are able to take the audience on such a thrill ride even though most of the film takes place in only one location.  From the first kill to the last, fans will be satisfied by the creative ways the kills are staged and by the cathartic character moments that the actors bring to life.