5/06/2019

THE RANGER (Review)

Title: The Ranger
Director: Jenn Wexler
Writer: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Cast: Chloë Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez
Min: 77
Year: 2018

We begin with a prologue involving a little girl and a decidedly kind of creepy Ranger (Jeremy Holm) talking at a table, before the cops knock on the door. From there we jump to the present, or what is at least the present time for the movie. At a punk club, we meet Chelsea (Chloë Levine) a pretty, pink haired punk girl hanging and doing drugs with her fellow punk friends. When, the cops attempt a drug bust at said club. everyone flees.

A cop ends up cornering Chelsea, and her not very nice, to say the least, boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs and kills him. Soon, Chelsea, Garth, and three of their friends are on the lam. They head out to her Uncle Pete's (horror indie favorite Larry Fessenden) old house, where she was raised by him, out in the woods. Yup, they're stuck in the woods, cause, of course, they would be. Anywho, it doesn't take long for their punky attitude to catch the attention of the same Ranger we met at the start of the film.
He soon tells them the "rules" that they need to be following while being in this national park, that he protects. In his eyes, they are unwelcomed assholes, save for Chelsea, whom he feels a sort patriarchal attachment to, or something along those lines. The punks could give a flying fuck though. They break all the rules there are and soon get picked off one by one.

The Ranger is a throwback/ homage to 80's slasher movies. So much so, that it might take place in the 80's, themselves. While never specified as such, none of the characters have cell phones, and they bring a boom-box with them. The film is done with a decidedly and, honestly, very welcomed punk attitude and heart. This leads to a very entertaining flick, that could have, under lesser hands, easily come off as the same old tired shit.
One thing of note, is that, truthfully, Chelsea is the most wholly likable character in the movie. Especially as she is bought to life by Chloë Levine. Levine plays her as tough, resourceful, savvy, and with her head, mostly, on straight. Levine says a lot with just a look from her big, blue eyes. She is one of the very best final girls in recent memory and a complete and total badass!

A great final girl needs a great villain, and that is exactly what the Ranger is. I always prefer a killer with an actual personality, than some empty shell of a hulking killer. Jeremy Holm wonderfully brings him to life. The character has this really wicked sense of humor, especially as he dictates the "rules", delivers some great one-liners, and/ or dishes out punishment.
One almost wonders why Chelsea hangs out with her friends, as they can come off as kind of being dicks. But, what we gather is the sense of family between these lost kids, who are bought to life by solid acting from the rest of the cast. More importantly their behavior adds to the punk quality and heart of the film. They, and the movie, itself, has this very anti-authority behavior that plays out perfectly as it becomes punks vs. crazed Ranger dude.

And, speaking of punk, it would be impossible for me to not talk about the music used here. To put it simply, I fucking love the soundtrack! It is an awesome throwback to movies with kick ass tunes like The Return of the Living Dead. I have complained in the past about the seeming death of the compilation rock soundtrack, especially in horror films. Well, this fucker happily brings that back. It really helps to cement the attitude and spirit that helps to set it apart from of its current brethren.
The flick doesn't have a huge body count, but that's cool by me. As the violence featured is brutal and realistic looking. Among the gore featured are blood splattering head shots, amputation, bisection, bloody bludgeonings, and more. The very first bit of violence, which happens to who is easily the second most likable punk teen in the movie, is a great set-off to the film's horror content. This is soon followed by the first kill which is a true, "Holy shit!" moment.

First time director and co-writer Jenn Wexler does a great job at building more and more tension as the movie goes along. I really like the way the movie starts. The aforementioned prologue is set in a way that seems sweet only to very quickly delve with a very creepy undercurrent. From there it cuts to some awesome punk music and fonts for the title scene. This all serves as a great introduction to what we can expect. The climax is wholly engrossing, brutal, and pulse pounding. It had me cheering my ass off, something not easy to do. The flick wraps up with a super cool ending.
The Ranger is a pure punk, slasher delight. It kicks some serious ass and rocks hard. The punk attitude and brutal violence make for cool bedfellows. Wexler makes a strong directorial debut, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on her future endeavors. Featuring a great villain and awesome final girl, it clearly understands what it takes to be a great slasher, and not merely passable. As a matter of fact, the more I thought about the more I like it! The Ranger is a Shudder original and will begin airing on the streaming service this Thursday, May 9, 2019. Don't miss it!


3.5 out of 4

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