Tag Archives: Ryûhei Kitamura

Ticket for One

Nightmare Cinema

by Hope Madden

Horror short compilations can be tricky business. Mick Garris, far better known for being a horror fan than a horror filmmaker, collects a handful of new shorts for Nightmare Cinema.

As he did with Masters of Horror, a sometimes wonderful and generally competent cable program he produced in 2007, his latest effort pulls in the talents of a few of his pals.

The through-line “The Projectionist” ties the disparate group of shorts together as, one after another, individuals see their names on the lonely marquee of a single screen theater and wander in to sit alone in the dark and watch as their nightmare unspools, controlled by the man in the booth (Mickey Rourke—shirtless, natch).

Those nightmares boast the direction of Joe Dante (The Howling), Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), David Slade (Hard Candy), Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and Garris himself.

Things open briskly with Brugués’s “The Thing in the Woods,” a slasher/SciFi mishmash with a bit of novelty hiding behind the mask of The Welder, the seemingly unkillable marauder stalking a group of good looking college kids in the woods.

What the short lacks in originality it mainly makes up for with humor, blood and an entirely unexplained basement full of corpses.

Important tangent: If you have not seen Brugues’s glorious 2011 caper Juan of the Dead, you should feel compelled to do so right now. Right now.

Dante’s “Mirare” plays like a particularly corporeal Twilight Zone, with a predictable outcome but a fairly wild journey.

Kitamura’s “Mashit” offers the most compelling visuals and nothing else. It’s just one more tired, lazy entry into the tedious “Catholicism is so bad” subgenre.

Slade’s “This Way to Egress” impresses. Feeling like a genuine nightmare with that same kind of illogical logic and terrifying vaguery that frustrates the dreamer, the short follows Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) through a moment of madness set in a doctor’s office that’s increasingly marred with filth and populated by disfigured janitors grunting through their endless cleanup.

A mysterious plot, Reaser’s wonderfully committed performance and some unsettling imagery combine to make this one the most intriguing of the shorts.

Garris’s own “Dead” completes the lineup with a bland “I see dead people” drama that collides with the framing “The Projectionist” to remind viewers that Garris is better at enjoying horror than he is at creating it.


Down Wind


by Hope Madden

There are some great films that spare you the exposition, dropping you instead into the center of the action and leaving you there, breathless, until the final credits. Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, for instance, exists in this Act 2-only universe.

When it’s done well, it can be a breathless, sometimes blistering ride.

Unfortunately, Downrange doesn’t do it well.

Director Ryûhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train) strands you with six motorists—just good looking kids ride-sharing their way with strangers across a deserted highway toward whatever.

One blown tire brings the carpool to a screeching halt, but it isn’t a stray pothole to blame (they’re obviously not driving through Columbus right now). No, it’s a well-aimed bullet, and these travelers have unwittingly volunteered to become target practice for some lone gunman (don’t call him a terrorist!) hiding in the tree line.

It’s not a bad set up, really, if a little clichéd and convenient: out of the way (read: no cell reception), car full of strangers (read: character development will unfold by way of action), escalating tension and drama.

How does the roadkill stew Kitamura makes from these ingredients wind up so bland? Once he puts these ducks on this pond, he can’t find anything imaginative to do with them.

The story is thin, yes—it’s a scene, really, stretched for 90 minutes. But it can be done. Greg McLean did it in 2007 with a raft full of tourists and a big gator in Rogue, but he had Radha Mitchell, Stephen Curry, John Jarratt and Mia Wasikowska—actors whose names you may not know but whose talent you would recognize. Downrange doesn’t have that.

To be fair, the cast struggles with more than just limited ability. They quickly lose the opportunity to feel authentic under an abundance of heavy breathing, high tension close-ups as each ducks and contorts to avoid the spray of bullets and body fluids.

The film isn’t terrible, it’s just tedious. Its nihilism feels undeserved, more like a lack of imagination than a cynical choice. A situation both so precise and so familiar requires some surprise—either in style or in narrative decision—to compel attention. Kitamura can muster neither.

Downrange is a Shudder exclusive, debuting April 28.