Frightfest 2018 opened with a relatively divisive film by the super talented swiss-army knife of film-making that is Jenn Wexler. The Ranger is a love letter to punk culture and a coming of age story that uses the metaphor of standing up to authority in a fresh and meaningful way.
The film, which divided people in the IMAX on Leicester Square on opening night, tells the story of a young woman named Chelsea played by Chloe Levine, who struggles to find her sense of place in the world. On top of her own personal identity crisis amongst her group of punk pisshead friends, Chelsea seems to be burying some deeply repressed secret regarding a tragedy from her past. She inherits her Uncles old cabin in the woods, giving a perfect opportunity for Chelsea and her ragtag group of misfits to isolate themselves and stick one big middle finger up to nature, while on the run from the cops.
The Park Ranger doesn’t take too kindly to this. Played exceptionally well by Jeremy Holm, the Ranger is the embodiment of order. A clear antagonist to these rebellious teens and their volatile personalities. Jeremy Holm eats up the scenery and his interactions with Chelsea are full of tension and genuine chemistry. One of my only major gripes with the film is how little the supporting characters really matter. They are there for some great deaths and clever humour, but they just don’t seem to have a wide-reaching effect on the narrative.
Wexler’s style permeates the film and everything from the song choices to the aesthetic scream with a unique voice. Some of the bigger set pieces in the film are delivered with such confidence that you’d be shocked to learn that this is Jenn’s first feature film as a director! Having built her credits as a producer with Glass Pix Studios (also known as the house of Larry Fessenden), Wexler puts all her experience to use in crafting not only an extremely competent debut feature but one that is sure to be a fan favourite of those in the punk scene for years to come.
The Ranger is about youth finding out who they are amidst a sea of peer pressure pushing and pulling them in all directions. What’s interesting is that for a film so about lack of identity just how focused it really is. Though this divided fans at the fest, it was one that resonated with me (and my seat buddy, Sam), perhaps because I still feel like Chelsea. That individual not quite sure where I fit in the grand scheme of this thing called life, but unwilling to just give in to societal standards.
The Ranger, produced by Glass Eye Pix & Hood River Entertainment and is available to watch via VOD exclusively on Shudder.
Follow the film at https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheRangerMovie/