Eye For Film >> Movies >> Downhill (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Every horror film has to have its schtick, right? This is the one about occult ceremonies, deadly viruses and, um, mountain biking.
We start with the latter, the part that director Patricio Valladares handles best. Joe (Bryce Draper) is preparing for a race against his best friend, with girlfriend and manager Stephanie (Natalie Burn) looking on. Helmet cams are checked. Joe is a big YouTube star. Everyone is prepared for an amazing event – but then something goes wrong, there’s an accident; everyone is devastated. Joe doesn’t race again for a year.
Persuading him to come out of retirement, eventually, is a friend in Chile with an exciting proposition. His grudging agreement gradually turns into genuine enthusiasm as he gets back into the life he once enjoyed. Just one thing mars the trip: an encounter at a service station with a group of bikers, one of whom assaults Stephanie. It’s a grim hint at things to come. Up in the woods on a lonely mountainside, Joe and Stephanie will find a man who has been shot and has some kind of infection, and everything will get worse from there.
Downhill implies a sense of momentum and that’s the way this film unfolds, from the top of the mountain in that first scene all the way to the bottom. Despite its several plot threads there never seems to be an opportunity to change direction. Hunted and forced to flee for their lives, Joe and Stephanie are out of their depth, making stupid but understandable mistakes. Valladares’ film may be confused in places but he keeps up the pace, and the increasingly frantic protagonists don’t have time to pause and ask questions.
The film is aided by a charismatic performance from Luke Massy as the apparent leader of a cult doing unspeakable things in the woods (not the least of which is dressing its sacrificial victims in cheap nylon slips). There are satanic orgy scenes reminiscent of those in Baskin and moments of body horror that recall Cabin Fever. Valladares switches style in later scenes, dispensing with the sharply framed tracking shots to deliver something intentionally less coherent, more hallucinatory, leaving us unsure what is real. Although the film packs in a few genre clichés, it has an energy of its own and a centred quality that helps it stand out, making it one of the more memorable offerings of its kind.Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2016