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Soundtrack review: Downrange (Aldo Shllaku – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Downrange (Aldo Shllaku – 2018)



“DOWNRANGE” is the terrifying, dark new thriller from acclaimed genre director Ryuhei Kitamura. Six college students are carpooling cross-country when one of their tires blows out on a desolate stretch of country road. Getting out to fix the flat, they quickly discover that this was no accident. The tire was shot out. With their vehicle incapacitated, the group is pinned down and mercilessly attacked by an unseen assailant as they desperately attempt to find a way to escape. Aldo Shllaku wrote the score.

There has been so many horror scores in the past few years that composers had to become quite inventive and creative to stand out; this is why each time I run into a new horror score I am excited to hear new ways to get scarred. The plot of the story makes me think of a textural, atmospheric score and indeed this is how the composer opens; his music is dense and opaque without getting jumpy or loud. “SUV in neutral” is the first cue where something happens to break this mood and, I guess, the assailant makes his first appearance. The music is not melodic or elegant; the sounds are fragmented, experimental as the composer want to mimic the discomfort and mystery of the situation by combining unusual sounds and echoes. I like that I find nice little surprises inside this score, like the retro synth motif at the end of “Sniper on three” which comes quite suddenly to enchant instead of scare.

Some cues, like the extremely quiet “Tool box” and “Target practice” work better in the context of the movie than standalone. I need to turn the volume way up and pay attention to be able to make something of them. They help create the atmosphere and every now and then another few retro electronic or ambient seconds pop up that keep me connected to this score. I am referring here to moments instead of full cues because the way the score develops for me works as a single long cue with variations inside of it.

I feel closest to the melancholic piano piece “Happy birthday” which suddenly calms down the chaos and eliminates the discomfort. A single cue like this, for me, makes the entire score worthwhile; this is why I listen to film music, to so much film music, and why I don’t dismiss scores even when I am not enjoying them a lot: for the hope of discovering hidden gems like this one or a similarly emotional piano motif in “What are you doing”. These passages bring soul and warmth to a score which until then only focused on creating an suspenseful and ominous atmosphere.

By the sound of this score the movie is quite unpleasant. As the music warmed up in the second half, I warmed up to it as well. The truly ambient moments were my favorites and in the end there was enough to enjoy musically, outside the context of the movie.

Cue rating: 66 / 100

Highlights: Happy birthday

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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