Punk rock, drugs, and killer Park Ranger. What else does a movie need? The Ranger is a 2019 Shudder Original film written and directed by Jenn Wexler. The film stars Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, and Jete Laurence. In a world filled with mainstream supernatural horror films, how well does a throwback to 80’s slashers stand up in today’s film culture?
The Ranger Synopsis
A free spirited punk rocker Chelsea and her group of friends are kicking the night away at a drug fueled punk rock party. The party is busted by the cops and in their ensuing escape Chelsea’s boyfriend Garth stabs an officer. The group beeline for the woods where Chelsea owns a cabin that once belonged to her uncle. Her uncle passed away in a freak accident a number of years ago.
Along their way the punk rock group comes across a straight laced Park Ranger. The Ranger informs them that they better be careful in the woods this time of year, it is hunting season. Soon after the group arrives at the cabin, they realize that the Ranger’s warning comes true. Only the animals of the forest aren’t the only ones under fire.
What I Liked
Director Jenn Wexler builds an overall tone that is much like the characters in the film. A vibrant neon burst of color within the natural landscape of a national park. The film never takes the subject matter too serious, but is also never over the top. Wexler creates a healthy balance of horror, suspense, and dark comedy throughout.
The Ranger is a throwback to the punk rock horror classics such as Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons. The characters feel like they could fit within any time period in punk rock horror history. Although the actors don’t provide world class performances, they are overall a solid cast. A standout to me in the supporting cast is that of the character Jerk.
Jerk, portrayed by Jeremy Pope, is an openly gay character who is in a relationship with fellow punk rocker Abe. The Ranger is Pope’s first credited on screen performance. He delivers the balance of charisma and vulnerability that reminds me of John Boyega in Attack the Block. This is a young actor to keep an eye on.
“The wolves of these regions were thought to be extinct. But they’re coming back.”
Jeremy Holm provides an unsettling yet relatable performance as The Ranger. Much like some of the greatest villains of all time, The Ranger has a point of view that the audience can understand. Though he may not be doing what is morally right, he believes that what he is doing is for the greater good. Holm delivers in all aspects of the characters, from the touching moments, to being down right creepy and utterly terrifying.
Our final girl Chelsea is given a backstory that many lesser films gloss over. Between the performances of Chloe Levine as the older Chelsea, and Jete Laurence as her younger counterpart, Chelsea is a fleshed out heroine. Chelsea is a final girl that the audience cannot help but root for. She is vulnerable, sympathetic, but always confident in what she is doing. It is always great to see a strong final girl that can stand toe-to-toe against her slasher oppressor.
Finally, the special makeup effects and prosthetic makeup by Brian Spears are top notch. The use of practical effects adds a sense of realism in the death scenes. Every blood spurt, bone crunch, or severed limb is felt by the audience. Spears previous work includes Marvel’s Netflix series such as Daredevil and The Punisher. His gritty, realistic effects on those shows are ever present in The Ranger.
What Could Have Been Improved
Even with a streamlined 77 minute run time, The Ranger at moments feels like scenes are there to increase that run time. The third act knows where it wants to end, but takes a detour to get their. I feel like there could have been a better way to increase the run time, while also not taking away from our main story. The film could benefit from a higher kill count, or adding more backstory to our side characters.
The Ranger is a fun throwback slasher film that includes all the staples we have grown to love. The rowdy teenagers. The no nonsense authority. And of course a memorable villain. Mainstream slasher films seem to be a thing of the past, but The Ranger is proof that these films can still work in 2019. The Ranger doesn’t break new ground, but it does provide an entertaining thrill ride through blood, drugs, and punk rock.
Overall Score 4/5
The Ranger begins streaming on Shudder May 9th.