Downrange (UK Premier) – 2017
Like I mentioned in my previous write up, Celluloid Screams is a festival that has established itself as one of the best on the circuit, the line up of movies they have on their schedules are always second to none, and year after year, they provide nothing short of a paramount festival experience for everyone attending.
Obviously, this year was no different, and with an outstanding selection of films on offer, it was always going to be difficult to try and choose a list of favorites. However, what I will at least attempt to do with my write-ups is highlight a handful of the titles that really stood out for me personally over the weekend.
Now if there is one thing celluloid screams likes to do, its hold their cards very close to their chest. no matter how many announcements the team advertises in the build-up to the festivals weekend you can always guarantee that Rob Nevitt and his cut-throat gang of horror fest fiends never bring out all of their big guns until the very last moment. Their now symbolic Saturday night ‘secret film’ being a prime example of this. And every year you can expect to see one of the features on the programme schedule showing a big fat question mark where that movie’s title would normally be…
The secret film at Celluloid Screams is always a huge highlight of the weekend, last years offering being the outstanding ‘The Autopsy Of Jane Doe’ just to give you an example of the level of quality they typically pull out of the bag for it. So this year, it’s safe to say they defiantly had their work cut out.
By this point in the weekend, we had already been treated to a long line of awesome shorts and feature films. Myself and the Slime House team had drunk more than a few fireball and cokes (our personal drink choice for the weekend) and between us, had spent a small fortune on the ever-present, Arrow and Fab Press merchandise stalls. We were now more than ready for that Celluloid Screams Secret Movie.
We all took to the front row seats that our gang had seemingly commandeered as our own for the remainder of the festival and waited patiently as Rob Nevitt made his way to the stage to finally announce what he had been keeping so covertly under wraps.
After a brief introduction and a tonne of quiet whispering amongst an audience that was obviously trying to guess what the movie could be, Rob finally gave the signal to project the film’s poster onto the cinema screen…
The wait was over, and every Whisper in the room was instantly silenced as we saw that the secret film we would be getting treated to at Celluloid Screams 2017, was none other than the UK premiere of Ryûhei Kitamura’s ‘Downrange’.
To say that I was excited would be a huge understatement, I grew up completely spellbound by the beauty of Japanese cinema, my obsession with the land of the rising sun played a huge part in the creation of the person that I am today, and the movies of Kitamura were a huge staple of that. ‘Godzilla Final Wars’ and ‘Verses’ just to name a few. Seeing Kitamura’s name as the director of this new movie Downrange projected onto the big screen had me rearing to go, and judging by the expressions of astonishment on the faces of the folk around me, I wasn’t the only one.
Now if there is one thing downrange doesn’t do, it’s fuck around, pretty much from the opening ten minutes, the story sets itself up as an unpredictable, tense, and extremely violent thrill ride.
Straight away we are introduced to a group of complete strangers, innocently carpooling together across a seemingly vast and uninhabited stretch of road located somewhere in the American outback.
The gang’s slick little road trip however takes a huge turn for the worst when their vehicle receives a blown out tire and their whole party is brought to an unexpected halt. As you can imagine the incident occurs on one of those shitty stretches of road that no horror film would be complete without, one where phone signal is scarce and the nearest garage is a million miles away. After a bit of back and forth decision making and the even more important snatching up of an awesome group selfie picture opportunity, a couple of the more hands-on members of the gang decide they should probably take a look at trying to change the tire themselves.
After a very quick inspection, it takes just a few moments for the carpool crews ‘we are screwed’ meter to go from 1 to 100, as they see that the damage to their tire appears to be down to something way more sinister than some shoddy highway maintenance or uneven road surface.
To our horror and theirs, we see that lodged into the thick, black rubber of the van’s tire, is not a shard of road debris, and is, in fact, the sharp missile tip shaped copper head of high-velocity hunting rifle round. Somebody wanted their van to stop here. Someone with grade ‘A’ precision marksmen skills.
As if timed like clockwork, a barrage of gunfire then erupts from out of nowhere leaving several of the groups heads spread across the hot sun scorched tarmac and the ones still lucky enough to still be breathing, pinned down behind their stationary vehicle.
Scared, trapped and almost completely exposed other than the minimal cover provided by the crew’s van, The peppering continues as the remaining members of the group try to figure out a means of escape while beings relentlessly fired on by the unknown assailant.
Downrange is anything but a complex story piece, the narrative is straightforward and the plot takes no time to get to the action. The movie explains very little about whats going on, we literally know as little as the group of carpoolers involved, but that’s what makes this film great. Sometimes less is more, and this is definitely the case with Downrange. A movie set in one single location always has the potential to become tiresome, but the unpredictability of downrange always keeps you guessing, nobody is safe from the unforgiving scope of the sniper wielding shooter and the stakes just get higher and higher as the movie reaches its explosive finale.
Without wanting to plague this write up with any more spoilers than I already have, the movie’s climax is one sweet pay off, the reveal of the mysterious gunman is straight out of an 80s movie poster and the ending is one that could be said to rival Frank Darabont’s ‘The Mist’.
Overall, Downrange was the perfect secret film for Celluloid Screams 2017. A movie that was thoroughly enjoyed by the festival audience, a great example of Ryûhei Kitamura’s exceptional ability to create a dramatic, high octane gore-fest and another great choice by Rob and the Celluloid Screams programming team. Really can’t wait to grab this one on Blu-Ray.
Click HERE for more info on the Celluloid Screams weekend and news on future events
words by Theo Cane