A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Patricio Valladares’ Downhill goes from GoPro adrenaline rush to pure kvlt madness in less than an hour-and-a-half. It’s a pure, evil adrenaline ride that never lets up, getting all of the Lovecraftian elements right.
Delving into the deep web of extreme sporting GoPro videos on the Internet can be a harrowing experience. It’s hard to say whether we’re watching to experience a vicarious adrenaline rush, explore remote wildernesses or even, in our darker selves, be watching for some horrible disaster. There’s a million reasons and ways to get yr heart hammering, nailed to the edge of yr seat as you chew your fingertips to bloody stumps.
One small step outside of the feeble constructs of society and we are quickly reminded how small, weak, inconsequential Humans really are.
Downhill, from Chilean director Patricio Valladares, uses the cinéma vérité vantage point of first-person biking videos as a launchpad to explore the Lovecraftian dimension, with heartcrushing results.
Downhill begins with an accident. Joe (Bryce Draper) and Stephanie (Natalie Burn) are semi-pro downhill bike racers. The film starts with the two of them preparing for a race with Joe’s best friend. What starts out as a lark , with the trio racing, playing about, and “talking shit”, quite literally, takes a turn for the disastrous when Joe’s best friend goes off-trail, left as a sudden shivering, quivering wreck.
Fast forward an indeterminate amount of time, and Joe’s a shell of his former self. Stephanie’s had enough, conspiring with their friend Pablo to get Joe back on the horse or, in this case, the Trek. Pablo’s organized a race in Chilé, with corporate sponsorship all lined up. Joe and Steph just have to show up and ride.
Cut to the primordial landscape of Chilé’s Andes mountains, walls of unforgiving quartzite jutting out like the Earth’s ragged ribcage. In typical horror movie fashion, Joe and Steph immediately encounter a group of sinister locals at a market, harassing Steph and pulling a knife on Joe, casting an ominous pall over the couple’s adventure.
Joe and Steph arrive to find a party in their honor. There’s a bit of backstory revealed between Joe and Magdalen, Pablo’s partner (Ignacio Allamand), giving some emotional heft to the horrors to come.
Following the party, Joe and Steph set out for a ride to explore the race track, only to find a man in the woods. He’s been badly injured in an accident and appears to be infected with some sort of mysterious malady. Things quickly go apeshit when the now-quartet, having been joined by Pablo and Mag, begin to draw fire from the treeline. Surprise, surprise – it’s the goons from the market, and they’re hunting the Infected Man. And now also the bikers, but we don’t yet know why.
As Joe, Steph, and the Infected Man fight for their lives, Downhill‘s final act ratchets up the action, the tension, the viscera and Cosmic Horror to 11 and never lets off the throttle to the film’s penultimate chilling finalé.
Downhill is impressive in its translation of classic Lovecraftian/Cosmic Horror tropes for the Silver Screen. There’s the unspeakable cults and subhuman orgies. There’s forbidden rituals from the Age before Mankind. The Andes makes for a truly vast and timeless setting for the horrors to unfold, which is a nice touch and addition to the Mythos. I’m honestly kind of surprised I’ve never seen any other Lovecraftian fiction set in South America.
The cinematography is exceptional, and does a great deal in distancing this short-but-disturbing film from its low budget roots. The filmmakers intersperse the first person GoPro footage with some impressive aerial photography, a la the intro the The Shining (or, bonus points for the diggers, 2001’s Demonicus.) The primordial forests are perfectly otherworldly and ancient, steaming and hissing like some ancient tarpit. Bloody remains dangle from trees, and there’s something out there.
Downhill is a wonderfully demented addition to the pantheon, updating Lovecraft’s blighted cults and nameless, tentacled terrors and transplanting them to the Chilean landscape. The acting is not perfect, but the action certainly is. It’s an unrelenting, nerve-shattering descent into the darkest depths, that you will not escape from unscathed.
Downhill made its U.S. Debut at the 21st Annual H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival And CthulhuCon, happening this weekend at the Hollywood Theater in Portland, Or.
To see a full list of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival Films Click Here
To see a full list of the festival’s special events, including film screenings with legendary Lovecraftian film director Stuart Gordon
Stay tuned for more Lovecraft Film Fest coverage throughout the weekend, here and elsewhere!
Got more horror- or occult-related you’d like to see us cover? Let us know in the comments!
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