Directed by Jenn Wexler and written by Wexler and Giaco Furino, The Ranger is a punksploitation slasher film currently making the rounds at film festivals with a wide release coming in September. The film stars Chloe 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, with a special cameo from Larry Fessenden as Uncle Pete. Wexler previously directed two short films and produced Robert Mockler’s Like Me and Mickey Keating’s Psychopaths and Darling, among others.
The Ranger follows a group of punks from the city on the run from the law, who head out into the mountains to hide at Chelsea’s uncle’s old cabin. Unknown to her friends, Chelsea has a dark past that she has spent her life trying to forget. You might think you can predict where this outlaws-on-the-lam story might go, but trust me-Wexler and crew have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.
Both punksploitation and the slasher genre really had their peak decades ago, so why should you be excited about such a film in 2018 and does it have anything to say to audiences today? When Donald Trump won the 2016 election and ushered in a new era of neo-Fascism and Nazis marching in our streets, he made all those classic hardcore albums of the 1980s suddenly, frighteningly relevant. Even the most paranoid Dead Kennedys song became like a reality show live-Tweet. We’ve moved into a very dark period in America where we’re being pummeled by wave after wave of fear, anger, desperation, depression, stress, but like Henry Rollins said during the Bush Jr era, “This is no time to be dismayed. This is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.”
So, yes, a pink haired punk rock girl fighting a psychopathic authority figure is the exact kind of hero we need right now. The Ranger is a blazing, cathartic horror film that spirals into wild and bloody depravity, propelled by performances from a great cast authentically depicting punks as desperate people living on the fringes of life and not as caricatures. The score, by Andrew Gordon Macpherson, and soundtrack that features bands like The Polyester Wags, Rotten UK, DayGlo Abortions, The Grim, The Avengers, and The Authority among others, will surely become sought after, fan-favorite discs (hello, Waxworks? Deathwaltz?). Wexler’s direction and James Siewart’s (who also worked on Like Me, which for my money is one of the prettiest movies made in years) cinematography give us the feel of classic 80s slashers, but with a beautiful modern polish. The total package will appeal to a wide range of horror fans, whether you like punk rock or not.
As much as Friday the 13th was a film of it’s time, but still holds up as the original inches closer to it’s 40th birthday, so too does The Ranger occupy that sweet spot where it could have come out anytime in the last three or four decades and will likely still feel as fresh thirty years from now.