23rd Aug2018

Frightfest 2018: ‘The Ranger’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Larry Fessenden, Nicholas Tucci | Written by Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler | Directed by Jenn Wexler


Having your debut feature play at London’s Frightfest is a huge honour. So for Jenn Wexler’s debut, The Ranger to also play on the festival’s opening night is a very big deal…

The Ranger tells a tried and tested genre story. In very simple terms, a group of teens go to stay in a cabin in the woods. There’s no evil spirits, no zombies, no ghosts, no aliens, just – as the title would suggest – one park ranger. But he is nasty enough to cause plenty of problems for the group. Jeremy Holm plays The Ranger, he looks nasty, angry and continuously like he wants to start a fight. And although I wouldn’t say I felt any sympathy for him, there’s clear reasons he is doing what he is doing and even if he knows he is doing wrong he believes he’s doing it for the right reasons. Holm, who is best known for his roles in Mr. Robot and House of Cards, is excellent.

There will be obvious comparisons to another recent punk rock genre movie, Green Room. The style of music not being the only obvious connection. There’s also plenty of very violent scenes which are the things people will talk about after seeing both films. Every death or fight scene in The Ranger is full of blood and fierce violence.

Thankfully the punk music doesn’t blast out loud from every single scene. Now, I’m not saying this because I don’t like punk, but like with metal (another genre of music I listen to a lot), when it’s used to much on a horror movie, it normally just plays over death scenes very loudly. It rarely fits what is happening on screen and it takes away any possible tension. That said, punk fans will definitely enjoy this soundtrack.

Chloe Levine is the perfect choice for the lead role here. I would go as far as to say that the film wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if a lesser actor was in her role. Genre fans might remember her from 2016 vampire flick, The Transfiguration (if you haven’t seen it, stop what you are doing and go watch it). She was phenomenal in that and she is fantastic again here. What is so impressive, is that this is a very different role to that one but she is equally as impressive. It’s no surprise that she already seems to be going on to bigger things with roles in The OA and The Defenders. She will without a doubt go on to be a huge star. It’s actually unfortunate for the rest of the cast, who almost fade into the background despite being good in their own right.

The only faults I had with The Ranger are minor. The reasoning for the group to head to the woods felt a bit ‘cartoonish’ and perhaps the filmmakers knew this because it’s all a bit rushed and seemingly only there because it has to be to set-up the whole movie. But Jenn Wexler has ultimately made a very impressive first film. She creates a unique style of her own and some scenes are really nicely shot. Non more so than one of the final and most brutal scenes in which you feel every single hit.

If Wolf Creek and Green Room had a baby in the middle of the woods, then The Ranger would be it. And that’s not a bad thing! Fast-paced, expertly acted and at times brutally violent, director Jenn Wexler will be one to look out for.

**** 4/5

The Ranger screened at Arrow Video Frightfest on Thursday 23rd August.


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