By Jordan Gerdes
This weekend, Shudder dropped Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger, a quick little jaunt that pits punks against an unhinged park ranger. Though never quite getting to the violence and tension of Green Room, The Ranger packs plenty of gore, practical effects, and bonkers action. The film centers on pink haired, soft spoken Chelsea (Chloe Levine), and her punk “family”, boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu), and friends Jerk (Jeremy Pope), Abe (Bubba Weiler), and Amber (Amanda Grace Benitez). An underground punk show is raided by cops, and Chelsea is tasked with getting the groups drugs safely out. She is confronted by a cop; Garth promptly stabs him and sends the group on the run. They retreat to the woods, to Chelsea’s family cabin. Before they get there, they meet The Ranger (Jeremy Holm), who reminds them that they are on his mountain. When Amber is shot by an unseen person, the group spirals into a frenzy to escape the woods alive, and the only thing standing between them and freedom is one very crazy park ranger.
The characters in the film are a little slim. Outside of Chelsea, most of them feel like an afterthought, something used to fill out the plot a little. Garth feels like a stereotype of what a punk is seen as, loud, drunk, destructive, and brash. Amber is your cliché groupie type, always looking for the next party. The only two that surprised me, were Jerk and Abe. I’m not sure if I missed something at the beginning of the movie, but midway through, there is a scene of Jerk and Abe sitting together with their arms wrapped around each other, and a later scene when Jerk and Abe kiss one another before they go separate ways to find help. What felt like thin characters at the start actually develop into a really heartwarming part of the film. The inclusion of characters with queer identities was something that didn’t feel forced, it didn’t do it just to have gay characters, but it felt natural and organic. It didn’t feel the need to explain it, or really put it on display, but it added a new dimension to the group.
The character of The Ranger was also equally daunting and insane. He feels like an 80’s B movie slasher, full of quippy lines and unhinged aggression. He stalks the characters one by one, yelling forest service infractions as he slashes and hacks away, which I thought was hilarious. While the backstory between he and Chelsea never pays off like the movie wants it to, it’s still entertaining and I give it credit for trying something creative. The practical effects in this are stylized in such a way that just adds to it’s B movie feel. Sinewy tissue tearing, blood spraying, slashing, it all feels messy and perfect.
The Ranger is just another great example of Shudder’s indie curation and dedication to being a platform for films that might not make it elsewhere. If you enjoy slashers, punk music, and B movie practicals, this is the film for you.