Director – Jenn Wexler, Screenplay – Giaco Turino & Jenn Wexler, Producers – Heather Buckley, Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead, Andrew van den Houten & Jenn Wexler, Photography – James Siewert, Music – Wade MacNeil & Andrew Gordon MacPherson, Visual Effects Supervisor – Eli Dorsey, Special Effects Supervisor – Brian Schuley, Prosthetic Makeup Effects – Gerner & Spears Effects (Designer – Brian Spears), Production Design – Rebekah Brown. Production Company – Hood River Entertainment/Glass Eye Pix.
Chloe Levine (Chelsea), Jeremy Holm (The Ranger), Granit Lahu (Garth), Jeremy Pope (Jerk), Bubba Weiler (Abe), Amber Grace Benitez (Amber), Jete Laurence (Young Chelsea), Larry Fessenden (Uncle Pete Benson)
Chelsea and four of her punk friends flee from a police raid on the club they are in. Chelsea is cornered by an officer in the alley outside but her boyfriend Garth comes and stabs the cop. As the panicked group try to decide what to do, Jenn mentions her uncle’s cabin in the woods. The others pressure her to take them there to hide out and she reluctantly agrees. On the way, they encounter the park’s officious ranger who Chelsea remembers from her childhood when her Uncle Pete was killed, a time she does not want to think about. The group settle into the cabin where the others begin getting up to their usual hijinks. However, this provokes the ire of the ranger who proceeds to start killing his way through their numbers.
Jenn (sometimes credited as Jennifer) Wexler has risen up through the ranks at Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix. She worked as a producer on Fessenden’s directorial outings Beneath (2013), the N is for Nexus segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014) and Depraved (2019), as well as other Glass Eye Pix films like Darling (2015), Like Me (2017), Most Beautiful Island (2017) and Psychopaths (2017). She makes her debut as director and writer with The Ranger. Fessenden makes another of his acting appearances in the film as the uncle who ends up being killed in the flashback scenes. Jenn Wexler should also not be confused with actress Jess Weixler (which I initially did), best known as the lead in Teeth (2007).
The Ranger has a set-up that makes it a Slasher Film – a group of teens head to a cabin in the woods where they are pursued and slaughtered by a hulking killer. The difference is all in the approach. The film kicks in with a ferocious punk tone. The scene where we are introduced to the characters comes amid the raucous noise of a live band in performance, followed by Chloe Levine taking a bunch of drugs and fleeing as police raid the club in the midst of which they stab a police officer and Chloe stands over his wounded body deciding whether to shoot him. When you contrast this to the average whitebread kids that occupy the typical slasher film, the results are striking.
This feels like a slasher film being made with the punk sensibilities of something like Return of the Living Dead (1985). Although once she gets the group to the cabin, Jenn Wexler pulls back from the initial burst of punk defiance and anti-authoritarianism. Chloe Levine is portrayed as the voice of normalcy and the rest of the punks are seen as no more than overgrown adolescents with no respect for the wilderness and someone else’s home. Chloe Levine has been a young face on the rise – I first paid attention to her in the vampire film The Transfiguration (2016) – and gives an extremely good performance here, one that becomes progressively more the voice of grounded reason and sense as the film goes on.
Where the film starts to get highly amusing is when it introduces its psycho in the form of Jeremy Holm as the titular Ranger (the character is never given any other name). It almost feels as though either Wexler or her co-writer Giaco Turino had worked for the US Forestry Service at some point and then gone through the guidebook and found ways to place blackly funny twists on the various regulations.
Holm’s dialogue as he despatches various of the teens is all diabolically funny twists on these regulations. He finds Bubba Weiler caught in a bear trap: “You got a permit to be using one of these traps?” After Weiler gets loose, severing his foot in the process, Holm picks the foot up: “Found property must be brought to the nearest park ranger. Property may not be left unattended longer than 24 hours,” while noting “Disabled persons may enter and exit the park at designated locations.” The film does not stint when it comes to the gore either.
Glass Eye Pix’s other genre films are:- The Off Season (2004), Zombie Honeymoon (2004), The Roost (2005), Automatons (2006), Trigger Man (2007), I Can See You (2008), I Sell the Dead (2008), The House of the Devil (2009), Satan Hates You (2009), Bitter Feast (2010), Stake Land (2010), Hypothermia (2011), The Innkeepers (2011), Late Phases (2014), Darling (2015), Most Beautiful Island (2017), Psychopaths (2017) and Off Season (2021).