J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ryuhei Kitamura’s Downrange, on Shudder

Okay kids, the lesson here is hard to miss. Just say no to carpooling. If these six college students had been caravanning instead, they would have had much more cover and there would have been a good chance one of their cars would have made it through the serial killer sniper’s ambush. One of them is a former Army brat, so at least she understands what they are dealing with, but she has no way to return fire in Ryûhei Kitamura’s Downrange (trailer here), which premieres exclusively today on Shudder.

There is the Army brat, a married couple (or engaged or whatever), the good-looking guy, the token minority, and the one with the heart-tugging younger sister. The mystery shooter will be using them all for target practice, but Kitamura’s quite effectively builds the suspense as we wait for the first kill. Soon three of them are huddled behind the car (fortunately its actually an SUV, the only responsible they’ve made), while another is cowering behind a tree stump.

Needless to say, this is an impossibly quiet stretch of road. However, it is not a closed system. More grist for the mill will inevitably come ambling along and even the cops will eventually get in on the act, but as the late R. Lee Ermey would say, the mystery man will definitely show just what one motivated sniper and his rifle can do.

Basically, there is no character development to speak of in Downrange. They are just interchangeable victims. As a slightly spoilery warning, viewers should also expect the lamest cheat of an ending we have maybe ever seen in horror movie—ever. However, we have to admit Kitamura maintains a visceral, claustrophobic sense of tension during the heart of the film.

Plus, there is the gore, which is either the film’s greatest asset or grossest sin, depending on your tastes and preferences. Naturally, the shooter uses vintage rounds that really tear through the flesh. This should come as no surprise, since goriness has always been Kitamura’s specialty.

This isn’t much of an actor’s showcase, but everyone looks adequately terrified or in shock. Plus, as an Easter Egg for viewers with sufficient endurance, cult horror movie regular Graham Skipper eventually appears as a sheriff’s deputy. It is not pretty, but Kitamura hits the low-hanging targets he aims for. Recommended for gore fans, Downrange starts streaming today (4/26) on Shudder.

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