Picture this: you’re driving in the middle of nowhere and your tire suddenly blows out. To make matters worse, there’s a sniper hiding in the trees, trying to kill you. What do you do? It’s a very frightening thing to imagine, and it’s the topic of discussion for the film, Downrange.
Although we’ve already reviewed the film, I wanted to get into it a bit more deeply because I love horror films where the victims are trapped and forced to contemplate their situation, trying to come up with a solution, all while tearing away from the usual horror clichés. SPOILERS BELOW!
(Synopsis provided by IMDb.com):
Stranded on the side of the road after a tire blowout, a group of friends become targets for an enigmatic sniper.
Directed by The Midnight Meat Train’s (2008) Ryûhei Kitamura, Downrange starts out with a bang – literally – as we’re introduced to our characters immediately after the tire blowout. It’s then followed by pretty awkward interactions that seemed like merely filler before the fun begins. Then things go from awkward and uncomfortable to intense and eerie. After the first couple of kills, the entire atmosphere shifts severely and it all turns into a real thrill ride!
This film is a good example of a horror film that focuses on strategy and survival. We have two very strong protagonists in Downrange who bounce off each other beautifully. You have Todd (Rod Hernandez), the idea man, and Karen (Stephanie Pearson), the army brat who shoots his ideas down and explains why they wouldn’t work. We’re basically given a guide on what to do and what not to do in a situation like this. I’m not saying these strategies are foolproof, but they are still informative. The movie even found a use for a selfie stick, which I found hilarious and very realistic for our time.
It’s no surprise that Todd and Karen are my favorite characters. Karen was very reminiscent of my favorite final girl, Erin from You’re Next. She kept a level head in all the chaos, and she actually did her best to protect everyone, not just herself. Todd is the most sympathetic character, and even after losing the love of his life, he still tries to help the rest of the survivors. He didn’t make the best decisions, but he sure as hell did his best. The sniper is a very mysterious, intriguing character. We don’t know who he his or why he’s terrorizing and killing people. All we know about him is that he’s cunning, he’s a professional shooter, and he’s patient.
I have to give my compliments to the minds behind the special effects for this film. It’s been a while since I’ve actually almost had to turn away from a death scene. If your makeup effects force people to look away from the screen, then you’ve done your job beautifully! All of these kills affected me. Whether they sent chills down my spine or almost made me tear up, these kill scenes had an impact on me.
I have very mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand, making Jodi (Kelly Connaire), not Karen, the final girl was a shocking and an interesting twist that I definitely didn’t see coming. On the other hand, she just wasn’t the character I was rooting for the entire film. It seemed like she was just there to raise the body count. Then, Karen suddenly makes a bad decision that leads to her downfall, and Jodi’s the hero? I guess I can buy it but doesn’t mean I have to like it!
Despite the things I disliked about the ending, Downrange still had everything I like: killer practical effects, protagonists that actually think, a frightening atmosphere, and plenty of blood and gore to satisfy my disturbing little heart. Downrange is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year! Be sure to check it out on Shudder!