It’s not hard to mine pleasure from your tried-and-true lost-in-the-woods horror setup, no matter how formulaic they get. But Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger, which sounds promising in synopsis — teen punks versus cops and a particularly murderous ranger (Jeremy Holm) — couldn’t be more insipid. In her first feature, Wexler, who previously has produced a handful of indie horror entries, seems to want to present a final girl that’s a little edgier than your average survivor. But the pink-haired Chelsea (Chloe Levine) — who brings her on-the-lam friends to a house in the woods where she grew up after her boyfriend stabs a cop during a drug raid at a club — neither flips the script nor gives us much of a heroine to root for.
A flashback in the opening of the film hints at Chelsea’s past trauma in the woods, and there is brief intrigue in finding out what that might be as she meekly attempts to get her unruly friends to behave. These leather-clad teens with anarchy signs painted on their jackets say empty catchphrases like “Fuck the police,” but the film never hints at anything insightful about the tension between civilians and authority figures. It’s rendered even less effective when these punks act so obnoxiously — doing expensive drugs, talking about calling on their parents to bail them out, littering, and vandalizing nature. What’s worse, all their dialogue is delivered from the most idiotic script. By the time the killings start, the film already feels draining, with no characters worth caring about, much less watching.
Directed by Jenn Wexler
Opens August 17, IFC Center
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 15, 2018