Boston Underground Film Festival Review: THE RANGER (2018)

THE RANGER is a retro style punk vs park ranger slasher film with a Lisa Frank colour pallet. Directed by Jenn Wexler, written by Giaco Furino and Jenn Wexler, and produced by Heather Buckley.

In THE RANGER, we follow Chelsea (Chloe Levine) and her band of punk friends as they are on the run from police after a near-fatal run-in. The story starts at a party filled to the brim with punk bands, loud music, bright colours (ala Lisa Frank), and copious amount of drugs, which we find out, Chelsea’s boyfriend, Garth (Granit Lahu), had stashed in Chelsea’s backpack. Garth and his friends are planning to start a business selling the drugs.

While on the run, the gang stops at a diner to refuel and discuss a plan for their new business and where to go. Garth brings up a cabin that Chelsea’s uncle has in the woods as the perfect hideout for their situation but, Chelsea doesn’t want to take them up there because of bad memories of when she was a child there. Garth insists that they go and, unfortunately, with the two police officers entering the diner and lack a better plan and they have no choice, but to dash the van and head to the cabin.

On their journey up the mountain, they make a pit stop to resupply on beer and snacks where they have a run in with The Ranger (Jeremy Holm). From a few scenes prior in the film, we know that Chelsea and The Ranger know each other from her childhood. The Ranger tells them the mountain closed due to hunting season, but Garth is not having it; Any chance to stick it to the man, right? Chelsea defuses the situation, and the group continues to the cabin.

At the cabin, we find out that Chelsea’s uncle had died in those woods when she was a child. Having been told rabid wolfs attacked and ate most of her uncle. During this conversation with her friends in the living room of the cabin, her friends try to light a cigarette inside. Because of this, Chelsea brings up a rule her uncle had about only smoking on the porch. Garth, his anti-rules ways, refuse to listen to her.

After checking the cabin out, Chelsea takes a walk alone in the woods to think about her uncle and what had happened on the day he died. On her walk, The Ranger shows up to talk to her about that day, to see if she remembers him and what really happened. After this slightly awkward conversation, Chelsea returns to the cabin to find her friends spray painting trees and carelessly lighting fires, leading to a big argument between Garth and Chelsea. Ultimately interrupted by one of their friends being shot by a high calibre rifle from far away.

Panicked, the group tries to bring their friend back to the van and to a hospital to find the van is gone. Without many more options, the group splits up as Garth and Chelsea head to the fire watch tower to get help from The Ranger, leaving their friends to get picked off one by one, and sending Chelsea onto the path to remembering what happened that fate-filled night and straight into the wolf’s den.

I absolutely enjoyed this move. Each character’s unique attitudes and personalities making me love and hate them all at the same time. Not just with the writing, but the cast was great and were all believable in their roles. The dialogue and visual subtleties are great. Realizing some of those subtleties days after I saw the film made me love it even more. Jokes and the death scenes were fantastic as well with some interesting kill scenes and Jeremy Holm flawlessly delivering a park violation for every situation.

If the level of subtle details, humour, and casting in this film is what I can expect from Jenn Wexler and her team, I happily await what is next to come.

And if you visit a national park, remember…Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.

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