What happens when young punk rockers do bad things, hide out in nature, and piss off a diligent and psychotic forest ranger? You’ll need to watch Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger to find out.
Chelsea (Chloe Levine) is an introspective young woman running with a rowdy bunch. During a raid at a punk show, Chelsea is cornered by a cop, who is stabbed by her protective and rebellious boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu). The group of kids narrowly escape capture and make off to Chelsea’s dead uncle Pete’s (Larry Fessenden) cabin deep in the mountains. They meet a forest ranger (Jeremy Holm) at a rest stop who recognizes Chelsea because when she was a girl, he rescued her after her uncle died in hunting accident.
At the cabin hideout, her cronies begin to party and desecrate the forest around them, upsetting Chelsea. Fraternizing with punks who don’t seem value much except drugs and loud music doesn’t suit her. She begs her friends to be more respectful of their surroundings, but they ignore her and suffer the consequences of disturbing the Ranger’s domain. Terror and death plague them, and Chelsea struggles with a secret the Ranger holds over her head as she fights for her life.
Wexler, along with writer Giaco Furino, turns the urban/suburban slasher into a severe, rule-abiding entity with seemingly omniscient powers. The Ranger is in touch with nature in a very psychotic way, and plays off of Chelsea’s fish out of water persona in the big city. Wexler also gives us a band of rotten teens reminiscent of the lot in Return of the Living Dead, and offers a decent throwback to 80s horror for her feature-length debut. You’ll see some effective kills, a mandatory Fessenden appearance (the film is backed by his Glass Eye Pix production company), a driving punk soundtrack and a same-sex couple to boot.
The cast gave solid performances as caricatures of destructive punks, and Levine plays a fantastic final girl with lots of heart and determination. Holm, a familiar face on House of Cards and Mr. Robot, is memorable and super-weird as The Ranger, making Wexler a director to watch. In fact, I hope she has a prequel coming because we need to know all about the origins of nature’s slash-daddy!
See why The Ranger was buzzed about at SXSW in 2018, gained several nominations, and a win for best soundtrack at Fantaspoa International Film Festival on May 9th when it streams on Shudder!