M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2017 and going through September 30, 2018. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on April 14, 2018. Available on Blu-ray/DVD, On Demand, and digital download! Also streaming on SHUDDER!

DOWNRANGE (2017)

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura
Written by Ryûhei Kitamura & Joey O’Bryan
Starring Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez, Anthony Kirlew, Alexa Yeames, Jason Tobias, Eric Matuschek, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, Hana Burson, Chris Powell, Graham Skipper, Nick Burson, Emory Lawrence, & Aion Boyd as the Rifleman
Find out more about this film @odwnrangeofficial and on Facebook here

DOWNRANGE surprised me. Hearing about the premise of the film before heading into it, I prepped myself for an OPEN WATER/FROZEN style scenario where a group of people are trapped in a single location and forced to make desperate decisions in order to survive. And that’s pretty much what I got in the first hour of DOWNRANGE. But as that last half hour kicked in, the film really reved up and ended up being one hell of a ballsy and fun little ride into oblivion.

A group of kids in a van break down on the side of the road. Turns out, the popped tire isn’t an accident. It’s the explosive result of rifle fire from a camouflaged gunman perched in a tree a great distance down the road. But the kids don’t find that out until two of their number have fallen to the sniper’s shots. Now four of the kids have hunkered down, using the van as a shield in order to survive. As the sun blazes above them and the sniper seems to have endless patience, the kids attempt to escape in one way after another.

So, pretty simple scenario. Grab a bunch of young actors and tell them to act petrified for an hour. And for the most part, this film delivers that. The young actors playing the trapped prey of the riflemen do a decent job of shivering and quivering, though I do think that if there is a chink in the armor of this film, despite the well-worn “trapped in one spot” scenario, is that some of the acting isn’t really that great. It might be simply a result of a script that needed one more polish, but the lines and the deliveries of the trapped kids felt repetitious and uninspired. No dialog is better than redundancy sometimes. Still, I think this film can serve as a statement that some people just can’t stay still for one second. I don’t want to lump an entire generation into one glommy glob, but the film really does show how millennials don’t have the attention span enough to sit and wait when a crisis arises. Our Twitter culture requires instant responses and these kids breeze through one futile escape plan after another at a rapid clip. I understand the need for something happening all the way through, but I felt the urge to throttle them all and tell the kids to slow down and breathe for half a fucking second.

But right when my old man tendencies started to kick into overload, the film really does amp up and deliver some action, gore, suspense, and surprises that elevated the movie to an entirely more interesting level. Forced out from behind the car through a series of events, the film becomes a symphony of violence, blood, and bullets where no one is safe, and expectations are tossed out like an empty clip.

So, while it takes its sweet time to get to the stuff you haven’t seen before, DOWNRANGE saves its dessert for the end where it should be. Even though the kids in this film lack patience, director Ryûhei Kitamura (who also delivered the subversive and suspenseful THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and NO ONE LIVES) has a little. This film almost lost me. The acting is spotty, and the setup is somewhat mundane. But sit with this one a while and I think, by the end of it all, DOWNRANGE is going to leave those with an appetite for violence, gore, and destruction with an ear to ear smile.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2017-2018 COUNTDOWN!


#17 – DOWNRANGE
#18 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#19 – HAPPY DEATH DAY
#20 – MOM & DAD
#21 – THE LANDING
#22 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#23 – THE RITUAL
#24 – THE BABYSITTER
#25 – MARROWBONE
#26 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#27 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#28 – BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
#29 – PYEWACKET
#30 – TERRIFIER
#31 – MAYHEM


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

I’ve set up a Patreon Page to help keep the lights on at MLMILLERWRITES, so if you have extra dough, please support me!

Interested in advertising on MLMILLERWRITES? Feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!

Don’t forget to share, like, and come back tomorrow for more reviews!