Downrange

Stranded at the side of the road after a tire blowout, a group of friends becomes targets for an enigmatic sniper.

Holy cow! I was just sitting there. Minding my own business. Then this movie called Downrange comes along, yanks me by the collar, and pulls me through a tense 90-minute thrill ride that left me gasping as the credits rolled.

Ryûhei Kitamura‘s new horror thriller Downrange is one of the most efficient horror pics in recent memory and certainly one of my favorites of the year. On their way through a narrow, two-lane, no-mans-land, a group of college students get stranded and become the target of a hidden assassin. Yes. The movie is that straightforward, that simple, and that visceral.

“…on the opposite side of the SUV five of the kids realize that things are strangely quiet.”

To start; Jodi (Kelly Connaire) Keren (Stephanie Pearson) Todd (Rod Hernandez) Eric (Anthony Kirlew) Sara (Alexa Yeames) and Jeff (Jason Tobias) are packed into an SUV. They are driving through a long stretch of country road, spotty reception, rolling hills, oak trees, the whole nine yards. Everything is going along fine then, BOOM a tire blows out. Swerving and skidding the car comes to a stop and the kids get out to inspect. Thankfully there is a spare in the back and they know how to replace a tire, so, all good.

This is the time that screenwriters Joey O’Bryan and Kitamura give us a hot minute to get to know the characters. They are looking for a nearby garage to buy a new tire, but the navigation on their phones keeps cutting in and out. Stupid coverage. Sitting in the shade on the opposite side of the SUV five of the kids realize that things are strangely quiet. Isn’t Jeff replacing the tire? That’s when they -ISH hits the fan, not 10 minutes in. A sniper, situated somewhere in the hills or trees nearby is waiting to pick each person off one by one. There is no agenda, no reason, just immediate danger.

“…pulls me through a tense 90-minute thrill ride that left me gasping…”

The technical aspects of this movie are on the mark. The sound mixing punctuates each gunshot, each ricocheting bullet with sharp clarity. The gore. My god. Some of the effects in this film are simply put, exquisite. Savage and brutal work by Kurt Ewell, Jungeun Lee, and Kazuyuki Okada had me literally gasping. Such great work here. There’s also a wonderful cameo by our friend Graham Skipper that was not only a surprise but total fun to watch.

Simple, lean, and merciless, Downrange doesn’t waste time with expository setup. You are there, in the moment, when things go south and the suspense only occasionally loosens its death grip on your psyche.

Downrange (2018) Directed by: Ryûhei KitamuraWritten By: Ryûhei Kitamura, Joey O’BryanStarring: Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez, Anthony Kirlew, Alexa Yeames, Jason Tobias, Graham Skipper.

Downrange gets four stars ****

Norm’s Rating System: ****(GREAT) ***(Good) **(Ok) *(Awful)

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