My notes on Downhill
Chilean writer-director Patricio Valladares is the man behind Hidden in the Woods – one of the three or four worst films I’ve seen at FrightFest. So, this has to be an improvement – and the relative lack of multiple gratuitous rape scenes helps, though it features queasy sexualised violation (of both sexes) of a sort. In a prologue designed to make you care about cardboard characters, bike racer Joe (Bryce Draper) is traumatised by the death of his best mate after he’s done a poo joke and hared off down a mountain to crash … and retires from the circuit until friend Pablo (Ariel Levy) persuades him out of retirement to inaugurate a race in Chile, bringing along his girlfriend Stephanie (Natalie Burn) – with whom Pablo (some friend) wants to resume a fling. All this character stuff is dropped, and Stephanie turns out to be the main character anyway. En route to the race mountain, the Yanks encounter sinister types in a bar – but a big bald ‘alpha hunter’ (Luke Massy) calls them off – and then the race itself gets weird as Joe runs over a guy suffering from a strange condition and winds up on the run through the woods with Stephanie and a bunch of one-trait apiece biker-cultists on their track. As inset flashes of horrible fates foreshadow, the cult are implanting Lovecraftian worms in sacrifices – and they grow into tentacular chest-burster things. This is acceptably weird, but not especially well-staged and the shrill, uninvolving characters undercut any fear factor. And most of the film is the umpteenth standardised chase-through-the-woods variant on The Most Dangerous Game. Co-written by Barry Keating, who specialises in English language films made in places like Serbia (Nymph) and Turkey (The Ghosts of Garip).