IHSFF

Downrange

downrange

A group of friends, acquaintances, and strangers carpool together on a road trip. While in the middle of nowhere they get a flat tire. The group soon realizes the tire was shot. There is someone hidden nearby, and he wants to take them out one by one. With no other people in the area, and no cell reception, the group is stranded. They will have to fight and do whatever it takes to survive.

This film has a simple and effective premise. It also feels very timely considering recent events happening in the United States. A lone shooter is well hidden from a vantage point, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. This is something that has been in the news a lot lately; the idea that there could be a shooter anywhere at any time is a fear many people experience these days. The realism of the premise makes the plot all the more intense to watch. However, there is one thing that takes away from the realism of this film: the gun. This is an issue in many films, but there is a lot of inconsistency when it comes to the gun used and how many bullets it can shoot. The gun is described as an antique, and when shown up close it appears that only a single round can be loaded at a time. Yet, there are scenes where multiple shots are fired without the man reloading his gun. This is a common flaw in film, especially action films. It is a detail many viewers will likely be able to ignore, but it took me out of the otherwise realistic plot.

What makes this premise stand out from similar plots is that the group aren’t necessarily friends. There is a couple in the mix, but everyone else just met in order to do a group carpool. We don’t know where each person is going, and no one knows anyone else’s background. That anonymity makes the dynamics between the group very interesting. It also adds an extra layer of intensity because each character doesn’t know how the other will react, especially in a situation like this where anxiety is at an all time high. In films where a group of friends are attacked, one can assume the friends will do whatever they can to save each other; when it is strangers, you never know what will happen.

The performances in this film start out a bit rough, but each character seems to get their groove as the film continues. Kelly Connaire (For Art’s Sake) plays the timid Jodi. In the beginning Jodi seems like a weak side character, but as the film progresses Connaire makes Jodi stronger and more interesting. Stephanie Pearson (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Insidious: Chapter 2) plays the most industrious of the group, Keren. Pearson gives the strongest and most consistent performance of the group, and she often is the one keeping the plot exciting. The dynamic between these two characters is also interesting because they are two opposite personalities. Witnessing how they react with each new horrific situation makes for a compelling juxtaposition.

There are a few aspects of the film that don’t quite translate. One of those things is the humor. There are scenes where half the audience will laugh, and the other half will find those scenes to be quite serious. Without speaking to writer Joey O’Bryan (Fulltime Killer) and writer/director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), there is no way to know if parts of the film were meant to be humorous or not. Another aspect of the film that doesn’t translate, and could potentially relate to humor as well, is the practical effects. The gore is fun and brightly colored, which many horror gore fans will love. Unfortunately, there is one practical effects gimmick used twice in the film that doesn’t quite fit. First, it seems odd to use such a specific gimmick twice in a short amount of time. Second, the effect looks cool, but it doesn’t seem very anatomically realistic with how the injury happened. Luckily this happens earlier in the film, and likely has a hand in why the film gets better the further into the plot it goes.

Downrange is a thrill ride playing into audiences’ fears over current events. The film takes a while to to get into a rhythm, but once it does it is exciting, gory, and filled with a couple fun twists and turns. There are parts where the potential for humor is a bit muddled, and many people will likely not find the film humorous at all. This film will likely be viewed very differently depending on who watches the film, but that may also be one of its charms. This may not be Kitamura’s best work, but it is still highly entertaining.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

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IHSFF 2018: An Interview With Festival Director Monte Yazzie

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The International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival, which shows in conjunction with the Phoenix Film Festival, is entering it’s 14th year. The festival has made a name for itself as the film event of the year for horror fans in Arizona. It gives audiences the chance to be among the first to see great horror film, and see some indie horror flicks they might not see otherwise. The festival director, Monte Yazzie, was nice enough to answer some questions about the festival for us. Here is what he had to say:

How long have you been the director of the IHSFF?

I have been the Festival Director for 4 years.

What is your favorite part of putting together the festival?

I love the puzzle of finding films to program. With more avenues for filmmakers to showcase their work and the access to filmmaking technology becoming so readily available, there are new artists emerging with unique voices and visions to share. Working to find that good balance of horror and science fiction is challenging in a good way.

But what I think I’m most fond about is the inclusion of our filmmakers. Being able to play a small part in bringing their films to an audience is a special thing. Watching the audience connect with their films and seeing the filmmaker experience that feeling is an absolute treasure.

Over the years have you changed the types of films you select, or does it depend on the submissions?

We get so many submissions every year and it continues to grow. Every year the genre experiences change, what is popular one year isn’t popular the next. The programming team understands this and we always strive to pick the best films from the bunch regardless of what topic it wants to cover.

Festivalgoers probably noticed that the PFF/IHSFF has a longer run this year. Why is that? What are some other changes festivalgoers can expect?

We have expanded to 11 days…that’s awesome! The expansion was necessary, we never stop growing and continue to get more excellent films every year. We want to provide as much festival to the film fan as we can.

IHSFF has an entire emphasis during the second weekend with two dedicated screens!!! We have an opportunity to program more movies and allow for festival goers to catch everything that we have on the list. It’s an huge step for us.

What is a piece of advice you can give someone coming to the festival for the first time this year?

Have fun. The Phoenix Film Festival and International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival has a combined 300 films to showcase. Go to our website www.horrorscifi.com and take a look at the festival program, start figuring out the films that you want to watch, and get tickets early. We always sell out of bigger films, it’s important to make sure you get your tickets early so that you get into the theater. Recline back (yes, our theater has reclining seats), get some popcorn and a beverage, and enjoy the sights we have to show you!!!


 

The IHSFF and PFF will be running from April 5th through April 15th at the Harkins Scottsdale 101. Along with the link Monte provided, you can view the entire film schedule for both festivals here. I hope to see you there!