REVIEW: ‘The Ranger’ is a Punk Rock Attempt at the Slasher Subgenre

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As a horror fan, I’m constantly looking for new horror films to watch that peak my interest. Luckily, I was able to find The Ranger, a Shudder exclusive film, directed by Jenn Wexler. It stars Chloë Levine as Chelsea, Jeremy Holm as The Ranger, Granit Lahu as Garth, Jeremy Pope as Jerk, Bubba Weiler as Abe, and Amanda Grace Benitez as Amber.

The film follows a group of teen punks who are on the run from the police after the concert they attend is raided. Chelsea, one of the group members, tells them about her uncle’s old cabin out in the woods. When they make it to the cabin, they find that they’re not alone. They come up against an unhinged park ranger who demands that his park be kept clean. The group must now find a way to survive the night or fall victim to The Ranger who definitely has hidden intentions.

For a slasher-type film, the film lacked a body count. The first main kill happens about 40 minutes into the film. There’s a death earlier but it doesn’t really add anything to the plot. Films like Friday the 13thScream, and Black Christmas included a death within the first 10 minutes of the film that perfectly set up what kind of film people would be watching. Some of the kills after this one are creative, but knowing that the first important kill happened midway through the film was a let down.

There were some questionable choices that pulled me out of the film at times. For one, some of the narrative choices didn’t quite make sense. The opening scene of a film is meant to set up how the film will play out. All I got from it was that something was off about The Ranger. It was only until the last act of the film where the opening scene paid off, but by then, I lost interest. Nothing major happened to let me know why that opening scene severed some sort of importance.

The premise alone was enough to capture my attention at first. I haven’t personally seen too many films where the park ranger hunts down teens in a forest. However, the movie took a bit too long to get things moving. The scene of the group at the concert and them making a plan on what to do after they escape the police went on for a long time. I understand that the film needed to set up their punk aesthetic, but their outfits and a short concert scene could have been enough to establish this.

The music selection in the film is one of the better things about it. I’m not particularly knowledgable on punk culture, but the songs themselves were fantastic. They let the audience know what more about who they are. One of the stand out songs used in the final confrontation with The Ranger, “The Most Beautiful Girl” by Charlie Rich, it added to the uncomfortably tense moment.

It was difficult to root for any of the members of the group besides Chelsea. The film tried a bit too hard to set up her friends as punk. As the film progressed, it just became more and more annoying. Their punk aesthetic doesn’t quite add anything to the plot after the opening scene other than getting themselves in trouble with The Ranger. It would’ve also made sense for him to have gone after them for any other reason.

One of the best things about the film is the character of The Ranger. The way he carries himself and how serious he takes his job as a park ranger is enough to make you feel uneasy around him. He managed to execute some creative kills that I’ve never seen before.

Overall, the movie doesn’t bring anything new to the horror genre. It’s a typical film where teens are hunted down by a deranged killer in the forest. Had this come out during the slasher craze in the 80s, I can imagine that it would have been an instant classic. It does however have some unique kills and it makes great use of the music that’s added in the film.

If you’re looking for an average kind of slasher that has some creative kills, then this is the film for you. Sadly, I cannot recommend the film as it is. The slow build up, strange opening scene, and bland storytelling did nothing to make me interested in the story.

The Ranger is available exclusively on Shudder on May 9th.

Final Rating: 4/10 Hard Working Park Rangers