Still haunted by the first reel death of his douchebag best bud, extreme bike racing superstar Joe (Bryce Draper) is coaxed out of retirement by another douchebag best bud Pablo (Ariel Levy) who’s setting up a race in Chile and has promised his backers Joe’s participation.

Arriving in Chile with his beautiful girlfriend Stephanie (Natalie Burn), they soon fall foul of some dodgy locals at a highway rest stop, escaping thanks to the intercession of their huge, not-at-all-sinister bald leader (Luke Massy). Arriving at the race venue, Joe and Stephanie party into the night with Pablo and Chile’s bike racing community before heading out bright and early the next day to recon the prospective race route through the mountain forest.

When they come across a badly injured car crash victim suffering from some sort of infection of weird parasitical, Lovecraftian worms and try to help him, Joe and Stephanie are attacked by the same group of gun-toting dodgy locals who earlier menaced them on the highway. A backwoods cult of chest-bursting monster worshippers, the locals are up to some seriously batshit bonkers no-good, deliberately infecting their victims with the worms in the hope they’ll play host to some sort of Eldritch god. Or something. That part’s never quite explained. Terrified and alone, Joe and Stephanie are forced to fight for their lives…

I’ve never been able to take extreme sports enthusiasts seriously. Every one I’ve ever met has been a spoiled, entitled douchebag who can never understand why I’m not impressed by their mad skateboarding skills and hipster/outlaw stance of sticking it to the man right up until they eventually cut off their dreads, have a wash and swap the baggy shorts for a suit, a job at Daddy’s firm and weekends skiing in Cham, their posturing never failing to make me think of the piss-take that was Extreme Ironing. So, when the heroes of the prolific Chilean filmmaker Patricio Valladares’ Downhill are extreme bike racers facing off against a backwoods Eldritch cult, I’m weird wormy death cult all the way though it’s perplexing how quickly these champion bike riders ditch their wheeled steeds in favour of wandering around in the woods. Surely hopping on the bikes and giving the infected fleshbag they’ve found a backie would’ve been a more effective option?

Slow to begin with, focusing on building tension through the fractured relationships and psyches of its protagonists, once the shit hits the fan, Downhill never lets up and there’s a handmade, practical look to the squirmy VFX while I found it refreshing that the script never bothers to explain what the hell is going on with these cultists. Why should it? As an audience, sometimes it’s nice to be as confused as the film’s protagonists. We don’t really need to know the bad guys agenda, if anything, that’d probably make the film less coherent. Just go with it! The performances are decent and while Draper is an unlovable mix of bland and whiny, Burn is as solid as you’d expect believably going toe-to-toe with Massy’s brawny antagonist and his minions though alarm bells do start ringing when the most honestly likable character in the film is perennial Chilean douchebag Ariel Levy’s douchebag best bud.

Mixing body and survival horror and throwing a weird Satanic death cult, in there as well because, well, why the fuck not, Downhill is a mixed bag, if not always a satisfying one, but it’s fast, furious, down-and-dirty fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And how many other films at this year’s FrightFest feature bored looking goats wandering through a naked blind witch orgy?

Horror Channel Frightfest review: Downhill
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)

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