A couple of months ago I watched a film that used the world of courier cycling as a setting, called “Alleycats” that I quite enjoyed. Using a similar idea, I guess, is the latest movie from Chilean writer / director Patricio Valladares that I watched the other night. Categorised as action / horror / sport – something you don’t see often – the film was released at the end of August this year and is titled “Downhill”.
At the start of the film, following a scene where a young woman seems to be the victim of some kind of occult-like ritual, we are introduced to mountain bike enthusiast Joe (Bryce Draper – “Muck”, “Bound”) who is preparing to take part in a downhill race with his best friend. The race ends in tragedy when Joe’s friend falls and is killed.
Some time later, having given up the sport, Joe is tempted out of retirement to take part in an exhibition race in the mountains of Chile. He travels there with his girlfriend Stephanie (Natalie Burn – “Nymph”, “Awaken”) and meets up with his old friends Pablo (Ariel Levy – “Aftershock”, “The Green Inferno”) and Magdalena (Ignacia Allamand – “Knock, Knock”, “The Green Inferno”) for a night of drinking and partying before the race.
The following morning Joe and Stephanie head out for a practice ride on the course, during which they stumble across a pickup truck with a badly injured man inside. They call for help but before they know what’s happening they find themselves being chased through the terrain by an armed gang led by an Alpha Hunter (Luke Massy – “Hidden In The Woods”, “Knife To A Gunfight”) and things go rapidly downhill (see what I did there?!)
Now, when I reviewed the aforementioned “Alleycats” I made mention that I felt that there was too much emphasis on the cycle riding early on in the film. Well, in this case I’d have to say, especially given that the film’s title implies a strong biking link, that there wasn’t enough downhill mountain biking in the film. There is the initial scene where Joe’s friend dies and a bit when he and Stephanie go for their practice ride in Chile but from that point on (less than half way through the movie) the biking theme goes right out of the window.
What we are then left with is a jumbled plot involving a ruthless gang of locals, plastic bags full of some gory looking contents hanging from trees throughout the forest, a strange unidentified virus, and the odd ritualistic elements, a scene that appears to involve some kind of zombie-like orgy – plus plenty of lingering shots of Burn early on..
Quite what it all adds up to I’m not entirely sure. On one level you could argue that the viewer sees things as central characters Joe and Stephanie do – odd events occurring without explanation that they just have to react to – but equally you could argue that there are a bunch of ideas thrown together that don’t quite fit together and are never fully realised or explained.
Both leads do a decent enough job with the material but it’s not enough to make the whole thing work convincingly to be honest. Not a highly recommended film, then, especially if you’re looking forward to the sport element of the film being more apparent, but with a duration of just 82 minutes there are certainly less entertaining ways of spending your time…