Quick disclaimer here: I’m really not a fan of movies with “punks” as main characters. Most of the time, things come across more cringey than believable. Most of the time it’s because these roles are in the hands of people clearly with no concept of what they’re meant to be emulating. There are very few films with actors that can pull the whole punk thing off. Green Room being a stellar stand out.
So when I began watching Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger, I was pretty impressed with the actors straight off the bat. And with a fairly likeable (or rather unlikeable) cast, it’s pretty easy to get invested in a slasher movie – even if it’s premise is slightly whacky. I mean, we have Jason in space, why can’t we have a child-obsessed park ranger who thinks he’s a wolf? (Or…at least that’s what I think happened here).
Chelsea and her friends are a group of punk ass kids. When the show they’re at gets busted by the police, the kids flee. Only Chelsea is cornered in an alley by a cop. Chelsea’s boyfriend, Garth, stabs the cop. The two flee in a van as the cop dies.
The gang of friends begin to make their way to Chelsea’s uncle’s old cabin in the mountains. They bump into a park ranger on the way, who warns them about hunting season. Being the little punks they are, they taunt the man before heading into the woods.
When they arrive at Chelsea’s uncle’s cabin, she admits to her friends that her uncle was actually murdered. And slowly, as she spends time in the solace of nature, begins to remember what happened the day of her uncle’s death. Namely, that the ranger she’d seen earlier was the man who took her under his wing after her uncle died.
Interrupting her thoughts, though, are her wild friends. They spray paint the trees, dig through her uncle’s things, start fires. But soon they face the consequences once one of them gets shot in the neck.
It’s a pretty quick escalation as things take a dark turn for the kids. As they try to help their injured friend, Amber, they quickly get picked off themselves by (shock) the Ranger. Though he seems to have a soft spot for Chelsea, and she’s about to discover why.
The Ranger has a pretty solid premise set up, but it begins to fall to pieces once it attempts to explain Chelsea’s story and her relationship with the Ranger. If you’re able to put up with some half-baked nonsense, this is actually a really fun little slasher. There’s plenty of blood and some real-squirm inducing gore. But it’s done with a sick and twisted sense of humour that I really appreciated.
Lead actress Chloë Levine is really compelling, and she’s got a pretty tough cast of characters to fight against. Jeremy Holm is, as ever, buckets full of fun as the ranger.
If the film had added on another five or ten minutes to give the viewers a bit more explanation, I think The Ranger would be a big hit. It’s still worth watching, even if it does induce a bit of head scratching.