Sunday, September 9, 2018

DOWNRANGE! Attending the Japanese Premiere of Ryuhei Kitamura's Independent Thriller!

Poster art for Ryuhei Kitamura's Downrange. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On September 6, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the premiere of the Ryuhei Kitamura's latest film, Downrange (2017). Shot in California on a low budget, Downrange is about a sniper who takes out an SUV full of college students and young adults in the middle of nowhere and tries to pick them off one-by-one. The premise is very simple, but the results of it are anything but.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura discusses the film following the premiere. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The premiere took place at Tokyo Culture Culture in Shibuya. It was an exciting event filled with press and luminaries from the Japanese entertainment world. Naturally, the main attraction was the screening of Downrange, which certainly thrilled and chilled the audience with whom I saw it. Make no mistake, this is an extremely graphic film, and it is not for the squeamish. In fact, part of the fun was simply looking around at the audience during some of the more gruesome sequences. The young women in attendance had some amusing reactions to all the gore.

Ryuhei Kitamura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's a brutal and downbeat film that succeeds when it keeps things minimal. Some of the sequences reminded me of No Country for Old Men, which is high praise, indeed. The film didn't work as well for me when it injected style and flashy camera angles into the proceedings. It just takes me out of the picture, and I prefer to immerse myself in the film-going experience, especially in a realistic horror film like this.

Despite that criticism, I enjoyed Downrange. It delivers genuine shocks and thrills in a time when most horror movies just induce yawns. While most flicks I've seen over the summer have been forgettable, many of the visuals in Downrange are hard to forget. This one sticks with you.

In 2004, I attended the world premiere of Godzilla: Final Wars in Hollywood. I never expected to attend another premiere of a Ryuhei Kitamura movie, but I'm very glad to have had the opportunity. If you like horror movies, and if the current crop the studios are churning out doesn't do it for you, check out Downrange. It's refreshing to see some effective, stripped-down horror in a sea of cheesy jump scares and CG ghosts.

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