By PETER KUPLOWSKY
Stranded at the side of the road after a tire blowout, a group of friends become targets for an enigmatic sniper, in this wickedly entertaining bloodbath from Midnight Madness regular Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus).
As if ricocheting from the racks of a video store’s “holy fucking shit” section, Ryuhei Kitamura returns to Midnight Madness with a wickedly entertaining bloodbath that distills the slasher formula to its most basic ingredients, but trades in blades for ballistics.
The conceit is devilishly simple: a tire blowout brings a van to a sudden stop, and its youthful occupants become stranded — not merely along a remote stretch of highway, mind you, but specifically within the crosshairs of an enigmatic sniper. Relying on the paltry (and increasingly penetrable) protection of their vehicle and its meagre resources, these hapless though endearingly wholesome targets must rise (or rather duck) to the occasion should they hope to best the barrage of bullets streaking towards them.
Collaborating with screenwriter Joey O’Bryan (Fulltime Killer, Motorway), Kitamura masterfully escalates this premise with sincere, unpretentious flair, gleefully teasing out each kill like they were the romantic will-they-or-won’t-they plots of a sitcom in sweeps week.
The most independent production of Kitamura’s career since Versus, there is a refreshing minimalism applied to Downrange‘s execution. It eschews convoluted plotting and exposition, instead exploiting the simple thrills of gooey gore gags and outrageous car stunts, all the while establishing its deadeye antagonist through concise glimpses that build to an iconic confrontation sublimely accented by a theremin-tinged score.
In short, it’s what Midnights were made for.