SXSW Exclusive: Don't Pollute: The Ranger (2018) Reviewed

Actress Chloe Levine stars in Jenn Wexler's punk rock horror jam, The Ranger.

Considering our late start at SXSW 2018, the first feature we had a chance to check out was Jenn Wexler's 2018 slasher riff, The Ranger. Part of the festival's Midnighters series, Wexler and some of her crew were on hand to answer some questions after the movie ended. Stating that the movie took place in an '80s dream world dimension, Wexler's attempt at the genre is a mixed bag that revels in practical gore, mostly expected twists, and a husky new killer that doesn't take kindly to kids disrespecting his woods. Armed with a taste for death and the park ranger code, this badged butcher is a riot on screen. 

As a nod to those old school movies that pitted a group of teens against a blood thirsty madman, her movie has a lot of fun to offer. However,  the story suffers immeasurably due to poor dialogue, underdeveloped story lines, and some plot points that didn't get the attention they deserved. The main character Chelsea (played by Chloe Levine) does an excellent job spawning a psychologically damaged yet powerful female antagonist. Yet, some of the pacing and scripting fails to give her character the room she needs to truly shine. Chloe's back story is interesting and speaks volumes for Wexler's talent at creating a lead we can sympathize with. If she had done something similar to Split by interjecting more flashbacks, her audience may have felt more connected to her plight. 

Worship my pink hair. Worship. It. 

Paying tribute to the horror genre as a whole, her attitudinal punk rock project is a mix of Green Room, nearly any '80s killer in the woods feature, and her own distinct brand of low budget genre fare. Where Wexler succeeds in creating a charismatic new villain (The Ranger), her film seems to have an personality crisis on its hands. Never stating when the film really takes place other than a different 'dimension', and failing to create realism in her support characters, The Ranger remains fun throughout but may be a letdown for hardcore horror hounds. Starting off with a nearly useless first act that pits our group of punks against the police, viewers may be wondering why this was even part of the movie in the first place. 

In an era when slasher films are hitting the streaming services of Amazon and Netflix on a weekly basis, The Ranger is entertaining but could have been so much more. Not really disappointed but more so wondering why some things weren't expanded on and others were cut too short, Wexler had a chance at reviving this genus of film. Fortunately for her and the cast, actor Jeremy Holm takes the material he's given and spins a bad ass new antagonist that needs (deserves) more screen time. 

The Ranger is one of the most original villains we've seen in a while. It may not be the best movie, but a sequel is necessary to give this Ranger the respect he deserves.