The Ranger reveals a new form of slasher horror, which is unveiled in the opening shot of our villainous ranger and the psychopathic grin he possesses while stating to a little girl, “don’t you ever forget me” - this scene leaves a strong impact on the viewer and a curiosity of what’s to come. Powered by the love of punk music and overall punk attitude, the film slides casually from hardcore punk to heavy metal by its end. Shocking, brutal, and just a whole lot of fun, The Ranger is almost destined to become a cult classic for the ages.
Jenn Wexler’s direction is grim while simultaneously encompassing the hardcore punk scene. Each action makes the characters become more and more unappealing, triggering a hatred that makes them more of an offering for the slaughter than a traditional horror. The Ranger marks her first venture into feature filmmaking, and she succeeds in making a name for herself that differs from the general directors of the genre. Her appeal for the main character completely outshines the others, making our lead not only a traditional final girl but the only one to confidently root for their survival by films end. From a hypnotic opening that showcases the odd behavior of the titular ranger to a drastic change of pace to a Green Room-esque punk rock scene, driving home the drug sensitive behavior of our lead. Moving from there into the woods, arriving in a more traditional slasher film, only to flip the script once more into a heavy metal inspired close that only the most sinister could have put to paper and then to screen.
The story follows a group of punk teenagers that find themselves running from the law to an old family cabin in the woods. Residing in a national park, a ranger seems to take his job a little too seriously when he warns the group not to venture into the park due to its closure, only to be insulted back and forth about the situation. Once the group arrives at the cabin, things start to go wild as our lead, Chelsea, discovers that her “friends” may be a little too much for her wellbeing - then things go even further south for the teens. Wexler shared writing duties with screenwriter Giaco Furino for his first feature credit. Curious of whom put this film to paper? It was these two that decided to make an insane film that speaks in ways about the sincere nature of environment protection, as well as the delusional mind of a man who controls the park - the ranger. If there was an issue to be conveyed in this review, it’d be the slight underdevelopment of the ranger in the film, although it leaves the door wide open for sequels (or prequels) showing more about the demented character.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It’s been a long time since a film has driven home such immense hatred for its main group of teenagers - not since Cabin Fever (a film that I adore) have I left a film only hoping the best for the leading man (or woman). Chloë Levine (The OA) plays Chelsea, an outsider looking to fit in to a hardcore clan of punk rock teens after a traumatic childhood event - Levine brings to the table a relatable compatibility to viewers. A druggie hiding her true self from the world in order to escape her past - while not all relatable words, something in there attaches itself to someone. The remaining teens aren’t as compelling to watch, although the actors behind the characters give their all to creating revolting human beings - hopeful kills for the killer in the film. Jeremy Holm (House of Cards) is The Ranger and is giving a performance to be reckoned with, as he starts the picture with a haunting grin and carries his outrageous insanity throughout the film. Holm creates a terrifying being in the woods that seems to have no motives beyond his love for the woods and what resides within them. Holm, with the help of the screenwriters, has created a new horror icon that fans should easily be able to rally around and hope for more from the vile authority figure.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Not every kill can be entirely shown on screen, and the sound design helps produce a shudder moment for the audience member as they have to imagine the horrific details of the character's fate. The punk fills our ears during exposition moments and once the horror begins, the classic style of horror film score is unleashed. Composer Andrew Gordon Macpherson is just beginning in his field, just like most others involved with the film, and similarly to them, his score represents great promise for a career to come - a career in horror.
The effects in The Ranger wonderfully encompass a practical appeal, creating a film that appears to admire and try to replicate the brutality of the 80s era slasher movies. Every kill is gruesome to the proper degree, with some brutalities being accomplished slightly off screen - the film’s visuals assist in establishing the insane mentality of the ranger in the park. The continuity of actions played out on screen are properly executed, and every circumstance of someone’s action previously done in the film is shown as it would be in reality. Simple mistakes can be made easily in horror films like spray paint not being on a particular character’s face from one scene to the next, but The Ranger manages to make no glaring mistakes - at least none that I could see.
The Ranger shows no mercy for the visitors of his national park, and the film that he resides in is a remarkable new vision for the slasher genre. Taking on a punk rock attitude, The Ranger is a brutal, shocking, and terrifying film that will make any criminal wary of hiding out within a national park in the future. While the ending is outrageous and provides no reason for a future entry, Wexler has created a horror figure that deserves a sequel to expand upon the carnage and story that has already begun.