"If victory favors me, I will protect your child with my life."

"I ask you not to worry about that possibility. Because my son and I live on the Demon Way in Hell, we're prepared to descend into Hell through the Six Realms and Four Lives."

The Ranger

THE RANGER is a pretty solid, pretty simple little horror movie about some punks in a remote cabin running afoul of a psychotic forest ranger. It’s a little more serious than that sounds, but in an interesting way, not a pretentious one. I believe it takes place some time in the ’80s, because there’s a Walkman but no cell phones, but otherwise it could take place any time in the last 35 years or so. Punks are timeless.

The story centers on Chelsea (Chloe Levine, The Defenders), whose family owns the cabin. She was there as a little girl when her uncle (Larry Fessenden, the Stan Lee of indie horror) died under grisly and not-yet-fully-explained-to-us circumstances. Now she gets pushed into bringing her friends there to hide out after her shithead boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a cop during a police raid at a punk show.

I mean, fuck that guy. The rest of their friends are nice and supportive, though, which I appreciate. Many slasher movies are undone by too much sniping and bickering, and that’s not the case here. Jerk (Jeremy Pope) and Abe (Bubba Weiler) are a couple who thankfully don’t fall victim to any historical homophobia, and Amber (Amanda Grace Benitez, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE) is the friendly space cadet who isn’t offended to wake up and discover herself in the back seat of her own van that they stole to evade authorities for things she had nothing to do with. They’re all pretty sympathetic despite their foolish decision to stick by Garth. I guess he’s like Crispin Glover in RIVER’S EDGE, the psycho who drags all his friends down with him, but he has such a weasely Dave Franco kind of vibe that he doesn’t seem as scary.

Not that the rest of them are innocent. At the beginning of the movie they snort from two giant bricks of I guess a fictional drug called “Echo,” acquired for what they call their “new business.” Later, when one of them is injured, they decide to inject her with something like heroin as a painkiller, but causing her to o.d. Stupid. They’re also obnoxious to the ranger (Jeremy Holm, Mr. Robot, House of Cards) when they think he’s just an ordinary ranger. It’s kind of an odd fit because these aren’t RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD style cartoon punks. They all play their parts naturalistically.

Levine in particular is outstanding, conveying so much about her discomfort and trauma without words. Chelsea strongly fits one of the less discussed aspects of Carol Clover’s Final Girl rules: she’s the more observant one, the one who we see noticing the things we know are signs of trouble to come, that everyone else ignores because they don’t know they’re in a horror movie. And I like that she can be the more responsible one among them, worrying about the consequences of their actions or trashing the cabin or the forest, but she seems like less of a poser than the rest of them so it’s hard to peg her as “the good girl.” She’s just smart.

Holm as The Ranger kept reminding me of Patrick Warburton – a big deep voiced guy with a dry, weird sense of humor. He’s very much a horror villain in the tradition of the late ’80s/early ’90s slashers, when they could be sort of almost-tongue-in-cheek and have a killer whose murders are based around being a cop, doctor, dentist, Santa Claus, snowman, whatever, usually with puns involved. In The Ranger’s case, he likes to gorily mutilate young people for violating the regulations for visiting the forest.

They also seem to have made one version of the poster – I found this online, but I’m not sure what they use it for – designed to appeal only to the people who would watch the early 2000s DTV horror screeners I used to get and never get around to watching:

Ignore that poster. Forget I showed it to you.

If this were made in the ’80s I think there would be some added side characters in order to increase the body count. Which I wouldn’t be against. On the other hand, it would also likely have less convincing leads, played by older actors but acting younger. I like this better, this combination of serious tone and outlandish killer.

My favorite horrible thing he does is kind of subtle. When he confronts them outside a convenience store where they’ve been shoplifting, before they know he’s anything other than an authority figure who could bust them, he gives them safety tips, including to wear bright colors so hunters will see you. Amber points to her blue hair and asks “Is this bright enough for ya?” Later (SPOILER) the first act of violence is when, out of the blue, she gets sniped in the head. So I guess it wasn’t so much of a warning or a tip as a way to make his hunting easier. It kinda reminds me of how in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 they talk about bears and warn not to wear perfume and then one of the women puts on perfume right before Jason attacks her.

If the movie just stuck with what I’ve described here it would be mildly amusing. I think it pushes itself up a little higher with a revelation about the past and a late reveal of some bizarre shit that The Ranger is up to. Both Chelsea and The Ranger have more hangups than I realized.

This is the feature directing debut for Jenn Wexler, who also co-wrote (with Giaco Furino) and edited. Previously she directed two shorts and produced a bunch of indie horror movies for Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. THE RANGER played at SXSW (pronounced “south-bee” in my opinion) and FrightFest UK in 2018 and will stream exclusively on Shudder soon, but it’s already on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an after credits scene that reveals you’ve been watching a dark reboot of YOGI BEAR? I think I checked, though.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 9:53 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “The Ranger”

  1. Also played Cinepocalypse which I was at but didn’t see it because my friend said it wasn’t good. My bad.

  2. For a minute I thought the ranger in the poster was Mark Paul Gosselaar, which would have been funny.

  3. john- The poster picture of our boy The Ranger *absolutely* looks like Mark-Paul Gosselaar, to the degree that I actually googled “Jeremey Holm” thinking I had had a stroke and forgotten the name of the guy from Saved By The Bell.

  4. I have to say, without this websight I would miss out on a bunch of independent horror.

  5. Get Shudder! I’ve found more horror movies I enjoyed on there in the past three months than I have in the past three years of internet hype. I was just about ready to give up on the genre, and I now I know I just need to give up on the internet.

  6. German Shudder sucks. They not just have a very small library, it seems like they only added less than 20 new movies since they launched in 2017. Okay, one of them is MANDY and four are Hammer DRACULA movies, but…nah. Not sure how they handle VPNs and if they let you use the American site with a German account. I should look into that.

  7. Mr M, do you have a place that will tell another person what you have watched?

  8. Sternshein: What, like a blog? I don’t really do that kind of thing anymore, but I’d be happy to give some recommendations. I haven’t watched all that many of the movies on there (as a physical media addict, I usually have a substantial backlog to work through before I get around to streaming options) but these are the ones chose because they most seemed to fit my tastes in the genre. They have many more varieties that might suit yours better. All of their selections feel curated for their particular qualities, not just thrown on there to fill up space on the menu screen like some other services’ horror options. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the stuff I want to watch on there.

    COLD HELL (great)
    COLD SKIN (almost great)
    DEAD SHACK (lots of fun)
    LAKE BODOM (a very respectable modern slasher that does clever things with the format)
    AMONG THE LIVING (The INSIDE team making their version of a TEXAS CHAINSAW movie before being hired to literally do that)
    YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (slight but enjoyable meta slasher, especially fun for Joss Whedon fans)
    SATAN’S SLAVES (very cool Indonesian horror)
    DARLING (passable 76-minute REPULSION ripoff from Mickey Keating, who hasn’t hit one out of the park yet but whom I admire for his ability to seemingly toss off very professional-looking movies seemingly at a whim)
    POD (another Keating joint but I think it’s no longer available)

    Speaking of Keating, he also hosts a show on Shudder called THE CORE that gets deep into the practical and psychological sides of horror. The first episode has the best gore effects tutorial sequence I’ve ever seen. I believe it was recently renewed for a second season.

    Shudder is also great for that kind of horror nerd stuff. There’s intermittent Joe Bob Briggs marathons, which are truly delightful. A James Cameron hosted show about sci-fi. Eli Roth’s Horror For Dummies show. A very interesting short (possibly the first in a series?) from the guy who made that SHINING documentary. Lots of great horror documentaries, like a two-parter on HELLRAISER, one on PET SEMATARY, one about Larry Cohen, some classics like BEST WORST MOVIE and LOST SOULS, and THE ROAD MOVIE, which really has to be seen to be believed.

    I’m not trying to sound like a commercial here, but I am really happy with my decision to subscribe. The vibe is friendly to all manner of horror fans, from the artsy types who love the SUSPIRIA remake but wouldn’t be caught dead watching an actual giallo to old school Fangoria fans who just want to see some monsters and blood. Nobody is left out. As somebody who feels that horror is losing something as it’s coopted by grad students who’d rather see a metaphor than a murder, I appreciate that somewhere out there there’s a big enough tent to hold all of us.

    Anyway. I hope you give it a shot. They give you a free seven-day trial so there’s little risk. Let me know how it turns out.

  9. Yeah…none of that seems to be on German Shudder. Still planning on checking how their VPN policy is, though.

  10. Shudder doesn’t give a shit if you are watching through a VPN, so I guess I’m gonna spend those 5 extra bucks per month until further notice.

  11. Mr M, I have a year subscription for them. I just want to know what movies you’ve watched. I don’t even need to know which ones you liked or not. I just feel like you watch an interesting selection of films and there is probably something in there I’ve never heard of.

  12. That’s cool. I think that list is everything recent I’ve seen on there. I tend toward the less atmospheric/more physical side of horror so you’ll see a dearth of ghost movies and more monster/slasher stuff. That’s just the song my heart sings.

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