Shudder is quickly becoming one of the go-to platforms for original and exclusive content and Ryuhei Kitamura’s Downrange is going to further elevate their catalog to a higher level. Its latest exclusive, Genco Inc.’s Downrange, is an incredibly produced action horror film that serves as a colorful and deadly mix of The Hitcher, Joy Ride, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wolf Creek. Needless to say, it’s a beast of a movie and it’s unrelentingly suspenseful and doused in blood and gasoline. With a story that quickly kicks off with a bang, five friends suffer a mysterious tire blow-out while traveling through back-roads on a deserted highway. Immediately they are besieged by a madman hiding in the underbrush with a sniper rifle. He’s hunting human game today and the group of friends is put through the ringer as they try to escape an impossibly violent situation. Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez-Farella, Anthony Kirlew, Alexa Yeames, Jason Tobias and Aion Boyd star in this onslaught of terror and heart stopping tension from writer Joey O’Bryan and producer Ko Mori.
Director and producer Ryuhei Kitamura had his hands full with this production, and as a marginally independent picture, I have to say this one far exceeded my expectations. In a way, Downrange takes a little bit of aura from each of Kitamura’s previous titles Midnight Meat Train and No One Lives, and combines them into one jaw-dropping cinematic experience. Although I was unsure about the camera quality at first, the problem readied itself around the ten minute mark and turned into a flawless production with perfect audio and blood splatters galore. And while the cast members have been seen in other hits like Almost Human, “Days of Our Lives,” Insidious 2, and “The Originals,” it was the bang-up script that really propelled Downrange to this positive review. As I mentioned above, the action and terror starts immediately, like within the first three minutes. So, you don’t have to wait long to invest yourself in this story. Sure, there isn’t time to relate to any of the characters before the first shot is fired, but I think you’ll start to pick your favorites as the film progresses.
And why would it want to wait? With Ryuhei Kitamura and cinematographer Matthias Schubert behind-the-scenes, Downrange was always going to be the way it turned out – action-horror at its finest. The hills are running red today, folks, which is actually a stark contrast if you want to dissect this Shudder exclusive from a visual and thematic standpoint. The hills of the highway are actually quite beautiful and golden, but the peace is about to be shattered because of a madman with a gun. Do you see any parallels between that narrative and the world we live in today? I sure do. The man with the rifle attacks without warning and, every so smartly, Kitamura and screenwriter Joey O’Bryan decided to keep him out of sight for most of the movie. It’s creepy, and gives a Die Hard meets Phone Booth meets Halloween vibe because you never know where the shot is coming from next…or when it’s coming. Going back to the writing again, Downrange has a sneaky plan of escape that I’ve never seen in any action movie before and an unexpected body count given this title’s location. Hell, the ending was even more pleasurable than I expected it to be.
Any movie that keeps me entertained and on my toes deserves a rave review like this one. I can’t tell you enough that Downrange is the perfect combination of action, horror and suspense. The gore is crimson, realistic icing on an already edible cake. The acting is above-average and each character represents a side of fear, resulting in emotions that range across the spectrum. Everything was just…great. It may seem like a stretch, but I’d wager that Downrange is The Hitcher of/for a new generation. A must see heart stopper. It becomes available on Shudder tomorrow, April 26, and I highly… highly… highly encourage you to give it a watch. You won’t be disappointed. It’s something different, and, honestly, something the genre needs – a good rebirth of the action-horror subgenre. The best one of the year so far in the category, I’d say. Well done. Final Score: 9 out of 10.