SXSW 2018: The Ranger Review – This Punk Rock Slasher Needs More Oomph

Starring Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope

Written by Giaco Furino and Jenn Wexler

Directed by Jenn Wexler

The combination of punk rock and horror is kind of a no-brainer. Both are outlets by which the disenfranchised can rally against “the man”. Both use extremes to make their points about a wide variety of topical situations. Plus, both are often pumping with energy, bristling with aggression, and overflowing with a delightful “fuck you” attitude that doesn’t care about what’s appropriate or tasteful. It’s films like Green Room or Return of the Living Dead that embody these traits, albeit the former being much more “serious” than the latter. This year, we can add The Ranger to that list.

The film follows Chelsea (Levine) and her four punk friends who hole up in her family cabin after fleeing a police raid that leaves an officer injured. There, they come under the attack of the local park ranger (Holm) who really, really wants to keep his forest clean.

Visually, The Ranger gives horror fans exactly what they want. It’s a crisp, clean looking film that features plenty of gore. Additionally, the film adds a rainbow-shimmer effect when characters are high on Echo, the prevalent drug used throughout the film, which adds a strange yet charming dreaminess to several scenes.

Aside from Levine and Holm’s strong portrayals, the rest of the cast bring adequate, although forgettable, performances to the screen. And while I wish I could say that I cared about these characters, none of them had any real redeeming values. Furthermore, some just didn’t make any sense. Chelsea’s punk aesthetic and stance within her core group of friends is at odds with her own actions, from challenging her friends and their raucous ways to not joining in with their anti-authoritarian outbursts. Holm’s unnamed park ranger also has the most minuscule of backstories, so much so that his motives remain questionable at best. There’s also a scene involving a wolf pelt that feels wildly out of place, as though Wexler and Furino wanted to add in a surreal element that ends up feeling more “Family Guy” than David Lynch.

Inconsistencies litter the script, from a confusing opening (that doesn’t get sufficient explanation at any point in the film) to unbelievable circumstances with the ranger and his murderous ways. The Ranger is clearly inspired by slashers from the 80’s but it misses out on what made them so special. Every major slasher had a backstory – Freddy was a child killer who got his comeuppance from the parents, Michael was evil incarnate, Jason drowned and then sought revenge, etc… – and no matter how simple that origin was, it gave the character a believable enough purpose for their slaughter. The titular ranger doesn’t have that and a weak attempt late in the film to offer such a story fails because it remains unclear what exactly is going on.

Still, The Ranger moves along at a quick clip, clocking in at almost exactly 80 minutes, which is perfect for a film of its kind. There are no dull moments to be had here. Composer Andrew Gordon Macpherson’s music adds just enough spice to the film to keep attention locked while the multitude of punk songs scattered throughout bolster frenetic, weaving camerawork. Putting aside the story issues, there certainly is a lot of fun to be had here.

  • The Ranger


A punk-fueled throwback to 80’s slashers, The Ranger is all well and good for people who want something that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. However, once you start analyzing the film, it quickly begins to fall apart.

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