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The Ranger (Movie Review)

The Ranger (Movie Review)
8 10

PLOT: A group of city punks on the run from the law are trapped in a forest with a psychotic ranger.

REVIEW: It's my opinion, and this is an opinion I hold due to my undying love for THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, that there aren't nearly enough punk-style characters in horror films, so the group of punk youths at the center of director Jenn Wexler's feature debut THE RANGER were a very welcome sight for me. Sure, these punks aren't as cool as the ones in THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, they couldn't hang with Suicide and Trash, but I was glad to see them anyway.

Adding to my enjoyment of THE RANGER was the fact that it's a slasher throwback, and slashers are my favorite sub-genre of horror. I'm always looking for a modern slasher that can live up to the greatest of the slashers that came out in the 1980s. They rarely even come close, but THE RANGER is a solid effort - and one that I found to be very reminiscent of an entertaining lower tier '80s slasher film, 1989'S PSYCHO COP (although I actually prefer PSYCHO COP 2, which came along in 1993).

These drug-peddling punks are on the run from the law after one of their rank stabbed a police officer, and the first place they can think of to go is the remote cabin that our heroine Chelsea (Chloe Levine) spent her childhood summers in, a place where she endured a tragedy that she doesn't fully remember the details of. The cabin is located on a mountain in a national forest and is watched over by the title character, played by Jeremy Holm.

Chelsea and the Ranger have a history together; again, that's something she has mostly repressed. But those buried memories start coming back to her when the Ranger starts picking off her friends one-by-one... And when the killing began, that's when THE RANGER really started making me think of PSYCHO COP. The '89 film crossed my mind as soon as I saw Holm in the Ranger's full uniform, including hat and sunglasses, but when the Ranger started reciting the laws of the land to his victims while doling out bloody deaths to them, that's when I began to see this as the closest thing we'll ever get to a PSYCHO COP 3. Holm doesn't go as far over-the-top as Robert R. Shafer did when he was playing the Psycho Cop, but the similarity is certainly there, and it was really fun to watch Holm in action as this Psycho Ranger.

The rest of the cast did well in their roles, with Levine making Chelsea a strong but conflicted heroine. Wexler and the casting director also did a perfect job of casting the younger version of the character for flashbacks to her childhood; I could totally buy that the Chelsea being played by child actress Jeté Laurence would grow up to be Levine's Chelsea.

It's a trend these days for genre stories to be set in the '80s, and that's not a trend I dislike, since I love '80s movies. Still, it was nice that THE RANGER managed to capture an '80s vibe without beating the viewer over the head with the idea that "This is set in the past!" I'm not even sure when it was supposed to be set - the punk-packed soundtrack does feature some music from contemporary groups, but the characters had a boombox and a Walkman instead of cell phones, there were some vintage walkie talkies that were in my household during my '80s childhood, and there was some nice, colorful neon lighting at one point. Of course, there's also synth in the score composed by Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon Macpherson, and some synth is always appreciated.

This movie brought back the feel of the '80s while showing me punks getting slashed by a heir to the Psycho Cop throne, so there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy THE RANGER. If those elements appeal to you, you'll probably have a blast watching this movie, too.

Extra Tidbit: THE RANGER begins a week-long theatrical run at the IFC Center in New York on August 17th.

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