In Australia’s rustic backcountry lies the foundation of a zombie apocalypse that’s shrouded in a dismal atmosphere. Netflix’s Cargo, just recently premiered Friday, May 18th 2018. Starring Martin Freeman, most notable for his role as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Cargo exchanges the gore-filled zombie feature for a more structured character driven narrative that is both engaging and emotional. The film follows an infected father, Andy (played by Martin Freeman), who has 48 hours to get his infant child to safety before his transformation to undead takes full form. Cargo is a full-feature based on a seven minute short film (of the same name) written by Yolanda Ramke and directed by Ramke and Ben Howling; both inheriting the same roles for the Netflix film.
Ramke’s attempt in presenting an expanded version of her short film is impressive, considering the limited amount of material in which she had to expand from the original short. The extent of a desperate father’s sole purpose in finding a safe home for his infant daughter is an emotional investment most of us are willing to make. Freeman’s character is relatable, likeable, and most importantly, reflects an idea of love and sacrifice we imagine we’d have in similar circumstances. Set against the desolate wilderness of Australia’s countryside, Cargo is an immersive journey that lends itself to the uncertainty that the vast and open environment cannot guarantee safety; and most frightening, nowhere to hide.
As Andy ventures on foot in search of safety, he not only encounters the ghouls that plague the outback, but survivors whose sense of entitlement to a land that no longer bears legal tenure creates aggressive confrontations. This does not suggest that every encounter is met with violence, but only shows the threat stretches beyond the undead. As Andy comes across several individuals, we bear witness to the struggles people endure in this apocalyptic world. With a limited amount of time (48 hours from the initial zombie bite) that Andy has to find a new and safe home for his infant child (Rose), he learns of a man, an Australian aboriginal named Willie, who would be capable of taking in his daughter. Learning of the mysterious Willie through a young aboriginal girl named Thoomi (played by actress Simone Landers), the film finally brings the plot together in the midst of Andy’s wandering the outback. Thoomi bears her own burdens as tensions begin to rise in the Australian outback.
By the third act of the film, Andy’s remaining hours prior to abandoning his humanity are dwindling by the minute. Martin Freeman’s likeable character compliments the intensity of the story as it becomes more difficult to accept his fate. Cargo’s verdict stands–it’s a moving horror/thriller that doesn’t downplay on the horror elements. Yolanda Ramke’s apocalyptic vision is a fresh take on the genre as the film’s location plays an important factor in the storytelling; the Australian aboriginal peoples are perhaps the most interesting of the film. Cargo is available for streaming exclusively on Netflix. If you’re interesting in checking out the original short film, also by Yolanda Ramke, you can find the YouTube link below. Thanks for reading.
A relentless killer aims his sights on six college students stranded on the side of the road. A dead zone of sorts, cell phone reception is not a luxury these kids have in their most desperate time of need. From Japanese filmmaker, Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, The Midnight Meat Train), Downrange is a high tension horror-thriller that drew inspiration from Kitamura’s own personal fears. Written by Kitamura alongside Jay O’Bryan, Downrange exploits the helplessness of being hunted by an unseen killer, while the victims are isolated and completely cut off the grid.
Kitamura manages to keep a steady pace throughout the film, without interrupting the intensity of the story. As six college kids wander around the stranded vehicle, in attempts to change a blown tire as well as find cellular reception, a sniper watches from the distance. With the sudden discovery of the sniper rifle bullet dislodged from the flat tire, the killer narrative goes into overdrive as these frantic teens fall prey to the unknown assassin’s lust for the hunt.
The tension in Downrange keeps you on high alert right from the start. Kitamura peels away any sense of safety as the unseen killer, whose motives are unknown, eliminates any chance of escape; let alone any chance of surviving a few more hours. Even in moments when shots are not fired, I found myself clenching at the thought of someone getting shot at any moment, from any direction. When that moment didn’t come, it only heightened the tension as well as my anxiety even further.
Kitamura’s choice of casting held no bearings on social cliches that interfered with the film’s plot. Just as most horror films fall victim to generic characters, or formulated casting to fulfill type casts and cliches, Downrange assures the audience that NO ONE is safe nor excluded from the killer’s intent of murder. The extreme vulnerability of the situation provided an opportunity for the cast to showcase their talents, and as a result performed exceptionally well. This was quite a surprise, as the first ten minutes of the film, filled with nonsensical dialogue and awkward performances, nearly sabotaged the film. Luckily, this was not the case once the narrative kicked into full gear.
Kitamura’s high tension thriller is a merciless display of madness preying on the helpless–a story of surviving an unfortunate event after being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Downrange takes a minimalist approach in presenting a simple premise in a grandiose fashion; bullets soaring, heads bursting, and cars exploding all thanks to the relentless killer’s intent on leaving no survivors. This simplistic approach avoids excess subplots and distractions from the high tension in order to keep you engaged, and perhaps also trying to figure out a means of escape. Downrange premiered on April 24th, 2018 and can be found exclusively on Shudder.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ryuhei Kitamura and his works, he recently did an interview on writer/director Mick Garris’ podcast titled Post Mortem (produced by Blumhouse). The podcast was released last April and shares some wonderful insight on Kitamura’s filmmaking struggles, and more importantly his successes. Check out Downrange on Shudder. It’s a worthy film if you’re looking for your next horror, thrill ride. Thanks for reading.
Recent events exposing the treatment and exploitation of entertainment performers, more commonly observed in the abuse of women, have stirred controversy in the media. Many have voiced concerns regarding veiled practices in Hollywood that have gone undetected. Yet as finger pointing and seeking accountability continues to plague the Internet, the core of the problem still remains unscathed. What can be done to create a safe environment for performers/entertainers in Hollywood? (more…)
The visual aesthetics of black and white films present an entirely different, and beautiful, form of art by utilizing the monochromatic spectrum in a unique manner. Contrast, texture, lighting, and detail become fundamental in order to deliver a powerful cinematic production. (more…)
As the most popular streaming service, Netflix, continues to expand its ongoing catalogue of not only popular titles, but those under the radar as well are given the opportunity to engage new audiences. For those willing to tread unfamiliar territory, Netflix has an impressive collection of horror films hailing from different parts of the world. (more…)