If you go down in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go down in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise!
The Ranger (2018) has been doing the festival circuit since its premiere at South by Southwest in March 2018. Set in the woods combining punk rock and slasher themes, is this one to look out for?
After a run-in with the cops at a punk show goes sideways, Chelsea and her pals flee the city in search of a place to lay low. Running to the security of Chelsea’s old, abandoned family cabin in the woods, they fall under the watchful eye of an overzealous park ranger who holds a secret from Chelsea’s past.
Set to the beat of a killer punk soundtrack (FANG, The Avengers, The Grim, Rotten UK and more) and presented in eye-popping neon colors, Jenn Wexler’s debut offers a modern take on survivalist horror that both celebrates and subverts the genre’s tropes with equal parts humor, glitter, and gore.
Directed and written by Jenn Wexler. Co-writer Giaco Furino.
Starring: Chloë Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeremy Holm and, Larry Fessenden (Habit 1995.)
How Was It?
As a general rule of thumb, I saw Larry Fessenden’s name on the bill and assumed this to be good before I had even watched it. I read a few unfavorable reviews and still went in with an open heart. I am also mostly in favor of any type of slasher in the wood types of films.
Over the course of the film, I could see director Wexler’s stylised brush in the colors and the playful atmosphere which is also present in one the films she produced called Like Me (2017). The visual aspects of The Ranger are the highlights of the film. Introductory scenes are put together in a spate of mayhem and lights that end in a punk and drug-fuelled catastrophe. The score is great if punk rock floats your musical boat and the character set is a mish-mosh of stereotypical teenagers who hate authority and behave like pigs in nearly all situations that don’t require it.
And this is where the film loses its traction. Between a backstory surrounding Chelsea who supplies the cabin in which to hide out in while they make like lambs and the hidden agenda of the ranger, the storyline is its weakest asset. Sometimes crazy works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of those times where the crazy isn’t executed in a way that aligns with the rest of the plot.
Mr. Ranger is ‘crazy for rules.’ Had he been more motivated in terrorizing them based on his unhinged inclination to abide by the signpost, I think this may have worked a little better. Dare I say, there was too much crazy in the ranger and the whole movie leans over to the side. It doesn’t topple over but it certainly doesn’t shine.
Final Thoughts for The Ranger
Utilized in the film on a few occasions is a mantra;
Take only photos
Leave only footprints
Kill only time
There were moments in this movie where I saw it as a completely excellent 80’s slasher throwback with a twist. There is a scene where a most annoying Abe played by Bubba Weiler gets his foot caught in a bear trap. What ensues is a diatribe of rules thrown at him while he begs for help. I couldn’t help but see the funny side of it. This was the highlight for me and other parts like it.
I didn’t hate The Ranger, I just didn’t love it either. Bravo with the creativity in some of the kill scenes. See it if you like punk rock, colored hair and a psycho Ranger Smith from Yogi the Bear with a wolf instead of a picnic basket.
I give The Ranger
2.5 knives versus guns never win out of 5
Upcoming screenings can be seen at: 9-1-2018 Horrible Imaginings @ 7: 45 pm Santa Ana, CA 9-2-2018 Genre Blast @ 9:30 pm Winchester, VA 9-7-2018 Laemmle for the opening Beverly Hills, CA and September 2018 Motel/X Lisbon, Portugal
Words by Vanessa Stewart Gary Gamble is the founder of Moviehooker. My website vanessasnonspoilers.com