Andrew van den Houten, horror veteran Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead, Heather Buckley and Jenn Wexler produced the story of teen punks on the run from the law who face off against an unhinged park ranger.
Chloë Levine (The Transfiguration), Jeremy Holm (Mr. Robot), Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, and Amanda Grace Benitez (School Of Rock) star in the SXSW Midnighters selection. First-timer Wexler directed from a screenplay she co-wrote with Giaco Furino.
“It’s been a thrill to share the film with festival audiences around the country,” Wexler said. “We’re so excited to team up with Octane to introduce The Ranger to the world.”
Fessenden added: “It has been gratifying to see Wexler move from being a fierce advocate for other directors’ visions through her stint producing movies at Glass Eye Pix, to taking on the challenge of getting her own unique vision on screen with The Ranger. I am so proud to see her continue the mission of pushing the boundaries and expectations of genre filmmaking, and this was the perfect collaboration for Glass Eye Pix and Hood River.”
“I’m thrilled to have produced The Ranger with such an amazingly talented team of artists,” van den Houten said. “It was a thrill working with fearless, freshman director Jenn Wexler and cannot wait for adoring horror fans all over the world to witness her entertaining and groundbreaking perspective of the punk rock slasher.”
“The Ranger is a fun and wild ride of punk rock infused horror that fits perfectly within our brand,” Octane Entertainment’s Jack Campbell added. “We’re excited to be working with this team of professionals and can’t wait to introduce the film to our buyers in Cannes.”
Campbell brokered the deal with 79th & Broadway Entertainment’s van den Houten on behalf of the production companies.
86’d produced by GEP pal Chadd Harbold (producer of Depraved, Most Beautiful Island, Only A Switch) has its world premiere at the Maryland Film Festival, May 3rd! Directed by Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo, starring Lindsay Burdge, Buddy Duress (Good Time), Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) and Fessenden!
Also unspooling, shorts by Depraved co-star David Call (Cole) and Depraved co-producer Lizz Astor (Drugstore Lipstick). Check it: Character Studies.
Jenn Wexler’s THE RANGER screening in New Orleans as part of
The Overlook Film Festival. Show starts TONIGHT!
Friday, April 20th – 8:30 PM – Canal B
Saturday, April 21st – 11:15 PM – Le Petit
From Simon Abrams: I’m pretty thrilled that we’re having this conversation, Graham, mostly because I’ve been a big fan of your work as a sound designer on indie horror films like Automatons and The Roost, two Glass Eye Pix-produced movies that both gave me one of my favorite post-film reactions: Who’s responsible for ____? I have to know more! Even more thrilling: I wanted to know more about sound design, a field of work that I knew — and probably still know — next to nothing about. Your work made me pay closer attention to what both of those films were doing on a completely different level than what I was used to. I started thinking about horror movies in terms of sound and how their sense of atmosphere was developed through the layering of noises on a soundtrack. Basic stuff for you, but something that I know I — and probably some of our readers — often take for granted since we often think of movies as a primarily visual medium.
You know those hokey old low-budget after-school specials in which Smokey Bear told you that only you could prevent forest fires — which was technically true, if only in the sense that you had no intention of ever stepping foot in a forest? Well, what if you watched a bunch of those in a row while having a bad acid trip? The director and co-writer of The Ranger admitted to being inspired by the former, and we can only assume that the latter was involved as well.
The premise is that a bunch of punk kids on the run from the police decide to lay low in a national park while doing a ton of drugs — a plan we fully endorse, because that’s also how we spend our summers. But one of them has a secret dark past, and all of them find themselves pissing off “an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.” It’s a safe bet that the axe isn’t metaphorical.
So if you miss the days when teenagers were slaughtered in forests, unlike all these lazy Millennial horror victims who get haunted by paranormal activity without having to even leave their own homes, or if you want what could be the closest we’ll ever get to an adaptation of our R-rated Yogi Bear fanfiction, this could be one for you.
From the opening seconds, Like Me (2017) had me in its grip with its mesmerizing splash of color. Even the Glass Eye Pix logo became a mini LSD trip as it flashed across the screen, and not in a cheesy way. Robert Mockler and company were able to capture a hyper-neon reality and ride it for the duration of the film’s slim 83-minute run time. For a debut movie Mockler really makes a visual statement here.
Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, and Larry Fessenden, Like Me is a meditation on loneliness and disconnectedness in an overly connected world. Timlin plays a sort of YouTube criminal/thrill seeker. You can’t really like her, but you can’t take your eyes off her either. She’s at turns obnoxious, vulnerable, scary, adorable, and broken. Timlin possesses the role to the point you may forget she’s an actress playing a role. Ian Nelson plays an acerbic critic of her work.
Though Nelson gets less screen time, there is a complexity to his character as well. I found myself hating him and agreeing him with within the same video rant. Filmmaker Larry Fessenden is probably the most sympathetic character in the film and it might be my favorite character he’s played since his own film, Habit (1995). Fessenden often shows up in smaller cameo roles, but he really displays his chops as a sad sack hotel owner with an unfulfilled artistic heart that gets sucked into Timlin’s web of deceit and danger.
The shift in color pallets towards the end of the film and the jarring jumps from phone footage – that has a more muted/realistic tone – back to the film’s hyper-color world is used to great effect. This helps Like Me be a movie you experience rather than just view. There are times when the film is obnoxious, too. I think intentionally so to match Timlin’s character and her video experiments. Repeated images, stuttering soundtrack, extreme close-ups of teeth chomping junk food are repulsive. But because she’s eating brightly colored foods, like Fruity Pebbles and gummy worms, it’s also strangely pretty.
Robert Mockler has planted his flag and declared himself with Like Me, and I’m excited to see what he does next. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is gorgeous and for me this is a movie worth buying rather than just streaming. It includes a making-of documentary as well.
“a film that has a lot of affection for both the punk community and the history of horror
and wants to be a new entry into both those worlds.”
– Rue Morgue
“an off-beat and exciting new icon of horror.”
“Levine and Holm anchor the film, bringing a sort of
anti-chemistry that is terrific fun to behold.”
– Daily Grindhouse
“Nostalgia done right.”
– Ghastly Grinning
“I absolutely enjoyed this move. Each character’s unique attitudes and personalities making me love
and hate them all at the same time. Not just with the writing, but the cast was great
and were all believable in their roles.”
– Nightmarish Conjurings
A group of teens sit at a table in a graffiti covered club that throbs with music. They experiment with drugs, crash onto the dance floor, and party with the free joy of their youth – until the cops come crashing in. In short order, things go from bad to worse as they attack an officer, steal a van, and hide out in a closed-down state park… only to end up in the crosshairs of an unhinged park ranger. At its core, The Ranger is a film about the clash between self-expression and conformity, of self-determination vs. oppressive authority. About finding yourself in a world that tries to tell you how you should be. Currently making its way through the festival circuit – including this past weekend at our own Boston Underground Film Festival – The Ranger‘s message is loud and clear, not only in plot, but in the blindingly pure punk aesthetic of its wicked cool wardrobe and solid soundtrack.
But unlike a lot of the films that are marketed to us so-called ‘alternative’ folk, the punk scene had always been intrinsic to the film in Director/Producer Jenn Wexler’s mind. First outlined to her by Giaco Furino while the two attended college, the plot was foremost in Wexler’s mind when she decided to take the plunge into directing a feature-length film. The two quickly turned a handful of notes into a script – and it was nearly three years ago, at a bar in Montreal, where she first handed the script to Heather Buckley, a producer known for her leather jackets, spurs and Soo Catwoman hair.
“Right away the characters sounded like my punk friends,” Buckley says. “But what would the music sound like?”
This is where our journey begins.
“As I read the script I put down in the notes what type of punk music would be good from this film.” Heather Buckley, Producer
Buckley grew up in New Jersey; It was at the age of 13 that she first heard “God Save the Queen” the second single from the Sex Pistols: “I was transformed,” she recalls. “That was the sound of what was inside me.”
Buckley went to punk shows at CBGB‘s in NYC, and, while visiting her sister at college, Lupo’s in Providence. That’s where she discovered more Boston-based bands. “The Unseen, Darkbuster, The Pinkerton Thugs, the Ducky Boys …”
“Once I made a boyfriend drive up from New Jersey to The Middle East [in Cambridge] in a snowstorm to see The Big Bad Bollocks,” she tells me. “And the first time I saw the Dropkick Murphys was when they opened for Agnostic Front.” She goes on to name other local favorites: “… Gang Green, The Street Dogs, Blood for Blood, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Allstonians, and The F.U.s.”
Buckley’s passion for Boston punk comes as no surprise. The scene has always been connected to the one she grew up around in New York City. “I think the unity between the two scenes has something to do with our direct, hard-edged character and similar senses of humor.” she tells me. I think she’s right. The origins of both can be traced back to Proto-punk and Anarcho-punk; first generation sub-genres from the UK that are known for their stripped-down, do-it-yourselfwork ethic, a concept not lost on those who chose to live and practice art on the East Coast.
But that being said, what you’ll hear used in the movie is decidedly not all East Coast. “The soundtrack had to express the vibe and culture of the kids.” Buckley says. Wexler agrees: “I wanted to underscore the themes with a soundtrack that spans different sub-genres of punk and reminds you of your old favorite mixtape.”
Both wanted to capture the sound and vibe of circle pits (mosh pits/slam dancing) and Skate punk, both younger sub-genres and cultures that did not come from New York or Boston, but California. But for that, Buckley and Wexler were going to need help – and that’s when they started working with promoter Middagh Goodwin.
“That is still one of the most endearing qualities of punk, we are an extended family.” – Middagh Goodwin, Music Supervisor
Goodwin grew up in Southern California, and went to his first punk show in 1981 (he was in the 8th grade). “It was Black Flag at Artesia High School,” he remembers. “It was one of [Henry] Rollins’ first shows with the band. The energy they brought was incredible, and most people had no idea what was going on. Especially at that time, there was no line between the band and the audience – we were all in it together.”
From that moment, it was a done deal – Goodwin has now been booking California-based punk bands for over 30 years. And with credentials like that, it’s no surprise that he was quickly brought on as the Music Supervisor for The Ranger. “I watched it once through with the sound on to get to know the story and the characters,” he says. “After that, I watched the film muted numerous times, just listening to songs to see how they would work. The songs had to fit the mood, the tempo and movement of the scene.”
The audience can expect to hear deep cuts from The Avengers, Authorities, Dayglo Abortions, FANG, The GRIM, and relatively new bands like The Atom Age, The Nerv, The Lobstrosities, The Polyester Wags, and Rotten UK (who also perform live in the film). It’s a great soundtrack, and really helps build the world the characters inhabit. Which makes sense when Goodwin compares a good soundtrack acts to a supporting character in a film.
“The Ranger would have been a totally different movie without a legitimate punk soundtrack.” He asks: “Can you imagine, Return of the Living Dead or Repo Man without the soundtrack?”
Like Buckley, Goodwin is also a fan of Boston punk. “I love a lot of Boston Ska, too,” Goodwin tells me. “Bosstones, Big D (and the Kids), Westbound Train, The Allstonians. Boston bands have a unique sound unlike anything else.”
“…the first big thing I went to – maybe at 14 years old – was Bad Religion, in a field somewhere. I was totally transformed by it.” Jenn Wexler, Director/Producer
You’ll be happy to hear that ‘Team Ranger’ is enthusiastically planning on a physical soundtrack release. “The rumor is a limited pressing, double gatefold color vinyl to be released hopefully very soon,” Goodwin says. “I would love to see a new generation being introduced to all these bands, much like I was with the This is Boston, Not L.A. compilation.”
Buckley has a similar goal. “My hope is everyone loves The Ranger – and that the music helps influence and create the next wave of punk rockers.”
The Ranger stars Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, and Jeremy Pope. It’s currently doing a festival run and will be playing at the Chattanooga Film Festival next week.