MOVIE: THE RANGER
STARRING: CHLOE LEVINE; JEREMY HOLM; BUBBA WEILER; JEREMY POPE
DIRECTED BY: JENN WEXLER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
There needs to be more punk in our horror movies. Thankfully, The Ranger has come along, and it is a super cool, punk slasher escape that I have always wanted. Director/writer Jenn Wexler and co-writer Giaco Furino conjure up every goofy stereotype that you would want in your horror movie. The cabin in the woods, the final girl, the bloody slashing, and the mad man stalking his youthful prey. And yet, The Ranger feels like a fresh, fun take on what we've seen before. Chelsea (Chloe Levine) is the quiet one in her group of friends. She participates in the fun of drugs, loud music, and laughs, but when boyfriend Garth kills a cop, it sends the gang on the run to her family cabin. What they find in the forrest is a park ranger with an axe to grind, resulting in a fight for survival, which is what makes The Ranger a killer independent movie that you won't want to miss.
I think in order to truly enjoy a movie like The Ranger one might need a background in appreciating horror films of all types. I immediately got the vibe of past Friday the 13th's, deadliest game-type thrillers such as Battle Royale, or 2008's little known euro-flick Eden Lake, but The Ranger has a unique blend of it's own. It has the fun slasher stuff in the third act, but early on the narrative takes time to build characters in a prologue about young Chelsea and her uncle teaching her how to shoot a gun. We hear of an accident which leaves our heroine under the watch of the title Ranger (Jeremy Holm). We can see that the dynamic between these two did not end well, along with memories that Chelsea has tried to suppress. Now she finds herself in a situation where her past comes back to get her and that punk attitude won't keep it away.
There are various things to praise about The Ranger, but a large chunk of my love for the film goes to director Jenn Wexler and lead Chloe Levine. Wexler knows Levine is the star of the show and instead of making her the shallow, self-absorbed type, she's reserved in her emotions. Levine's performance is spot-on, fun, and a perfect fit for the narrative. Friends Abe (Bubba Weiler) and Jerk (Jeremy Pope) are a couple that never knows when to stop messing around, while immature boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) is too interested in his own pleasures with pink cocaine and the attention he's receiving from Amber (Amanda Grace Benitez). Each member of the group is drawn with intention, whether it's the color of their hair (pinks & blues) or the various band patches on a leather jacket. The Ranger not only lives in the horror genre, it breathes it.
If The Ranger has any flaws it's that it feels lacking in action during the second act, but any mistakes are quickly fixed at the end. The punk groups fight for survival is the reason you will want to see The Ranger in the first place, so I won't reveal any more. It's just the kind of horror film that fans will want to seek out and I can't wait to see what director Jenn Wexler will do next. She knows how to make a movie rock and roll.
Written by: Leo Brady