THE RANGER team headed down to Austin for its SXSW World Premiere! Check it out in pics here.
THE RANGER team headed down to Austin for its SXSW World Premiere! Check it out in pics here.
Sheffield in the UK is normally associated with Celluloid Screams Film Festival in the world of genre events. Before it returns for a tenth edition this October, horror fans in the surrounding area can get schooled in the sinful cinema which we love with Sheffield Hallam University’s FEAR 2000 conference. Hosted by the Department of Humanities, the event running April 6 & 7, is dedicated to studying horror cinema and television in the twenty-first century. Organized by Craig Ian Mann, Rose Butler and Shelley O’Brien take a look at the running order of lectures planned which are sure to make your brain bulge before pouring out of your ears.
Full program HERE
There is a deep and undeniable connection between punk music and horror films that goes back decades. From the very beginning of the punk music movement in the ’70s, bands and fans used horror imagery to separate themselves from those around them. In my own personal journey of discovery as a budding horror fan, punk music played a pivotal part in connecting the dots between my internal raging anger and its obvious violent expression on film. All of this to say that I’ve always been surprised at how infrequently this seemingly indisputable relationship has been exploited on film.
Director Jenn Wexler’s debut feature, The Ranger, is the latest the a relatively small oeuvre of punk rock horror films, and it is one that takes the energy and explosive enthusiasm of the music and attempts to give it life on screen. It isn’t entirely successful in putting a new classic on the table for fans to adore, it’s definitely a heaping helping of bloody, obnoxious fun, and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for.
Punk rocker Chelsea (Chloe Levine) and her snotty punk pals get caught up in a police raid at a show and go on the run to avoid getting picked up with a huge quantity of a new party drug called “echo”. When one of the punks stabs a cop while saving Chelsea from certain doom, the crew decides it’s time to go underground and they head into the woods of upstate New York. Chelsea’s uncle had a cabin in the woods where they can hide, but these woods hold a lot of conflicting memories for her, and soon her past catches up with her in the form of a deranged ranger with an axe to grind. Literally.
The Ranger (Jeremy Holm, House of Cards, Mr. Robot) wants Chelsea all to himself, and will plow through her friends one-by-one to get to her. There’s a complicated history between the two involving Chelsea’s uncle, played silently by New York indie horror legend Larry Fessenden, and his unfortunate violent demise. She’s not having it, though, so The Ranger goes on a spree, dispatching her friends in predictably violent ways, all to a frenetic punk rock soundtrack.
In punk terms, The Ranger definitely share the same kind of energy as the early ’80s pre-hardcore music scene. A bit sloppy around the edges, the film at times trades enthusiasm for polish, resulting in a final product that is impossible to take seriously, but at the same time doesn’t ask that of its audience. The film’s characters, apart from Chelsea, are the kind of obnoxious cartoon punks that make normal folks uncomfortable, but the shallow characterizations reinforce the go-for-broke tone and allow the audience to identify more with Chelsea, though I would’ve loved to know her compatriots as more than just a bunch of irritating party kids.
I’ve stated publically on this site on more than one occasion that 1985 punk horror classic, The Return of the Living Dead, is my favorite film of all time, and while it’s perhaps unfair to compare two films, it’s also inevitable. The Ranger doesn’t reach those heights by any stretch, but it’s a competent, fun, bloody, and energetic addition to the canon of punk horror films that its creators can be proud of. A lot of my issues feel like the follies of an excitable first time director, but then again, they didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the film so I can still give it a solid recommendation for fans of low budget indie horror, and not that hi-falutin’ artsy fartsy stuff. This is a fun throwback with a killer soundtrack and enough solid kills in its 77 minutes (was that on purpose? if so, kudos) to sate spiky haired gorehounds everywhere.
From Screen Anarchy
The trailer has a definite retro feel to it, with Wexler taking inspiration from public service announcements of decades past.
“I was watching tons of ’80s PSAs. Smoky the Bear type PSAs and after school special type stuff,” Wexler tells Heat Vision. She enlisted novelist Ed Kurtz for the voiceover work and used music from punk musician Wade MacNeil, who scored the film.
The trailer comes a day ahead of the film’s premiere at South by Southwest, which marks the culmination of months of work for Wexler in editing.
“Directing is very interesting, because you have to be super extroverted on set and in production, and then you go into a dark room for however many months and then you have to be a total introvert,” she says with a laugh. “And then when you are showing the movie off, you have to go back into extravert.”
The Ranger premiere takes place Monday at 11:55 p.m. at Alamo Ritz 1 and it is expected to include Wexler and stars Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Bubba Weiler, Jeremy Pope and Granit Lahu.
The film’s executive producers include Darryl Gariglio, Giles Daoust and Catherine Dumonceaux. Wexler is producing with Andrew van den Houten, Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead and Heather Buckley.
In director Jenn Wexler‘s SXSW-bound directorial debut The Ranger, a group of young punks get in trouble with the cops and flee the city. Fueled by an hallucinogenic drug called Echo, they hope to lay low in the woods, but the punks find themselves pitted against the local authority — an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.
“Jeremy Holm plays the ranger,” says Wexler. “He’s in Mr. Robot and House of Cards and he’s just f—ing awesome. I can’t wait for people to see him in this movie. Chloe Levine, who’s in The Defenders and The OA on Netflix, plays one of the punks named Chelsea. Then we have Amanda Grace Benitez, who’s in All Cheerleaders Die, and Bubba Weiler (The Good Fight), and Granit Lahu (The Sinner), and Jeremy Pope. It’s a great ensemble cast.”
Wexler co-wrote the script for The Ranger with an old friend, Giaco Furino.
“We went to college in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts and this was his, like, senior screenplay,” says Wexler. “I was always so obsessed with the idea of punks vs. a park ranger. I felt that was something that should already exist in the world! [Laughs] There should already be some ’80s movie about punks that go up against a park ranger. So, I always loved the concept, and then later, when I figured out how to make movies, I was like, ‘Yo, Giaco! Find that script and let’s make this!”
Although Wexler is a first-time director, she is certainly not lacking experience behind the camera, having recently produced Mickey Keating’s films Darling and Psychopaths, Robert Mockler’s Like Me, and Ana Ansensio’s Most Beautiful Island, which was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the recent Independent Spirit Awards. Wexler is currently performing the same role on Depraved, a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein being made by indie-horror notable and The Ranger cast member, Larry Fessenden.
“We’re in the middle of shooting,” says Wexler. “I don’t want to speak too much to it, but everything about it looks awesome, including the monster, and I know Larry’s really excited to hop into the editing room.”
The Ranger will receive its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 12. More information about the film’s screening schedule can be found at the official SXSW website.
The Ranger is produced by Wexler, Fessenden, Andrew van den Houten, Ashleigh Snead, and Heather Buckley. The film is exec-produced by Darryl Gariglio, Giles Daoust, and Catherine Dumonceaux.
You can check out the film’s poster to the right and a rundown on its cast, crew, and synopsis below.
But today we have a new update on the film as Fessenden recently sat down with Daily Dead and discussed the film a bit more in-depth.
“In a funny way, I want to make all the classics again,” Fessenden told the site. “I’ve made a vampire movie. I want to make a werewolf movie, but Frankenstein is one of the greatest creations of pop culture. The original version is a masterpiece, and oddly enough, it’s a story that hasn’t been done that well since. And it’s often attempted. I feel there’s a core theme in that story that I would like to explore and bring it very much back to this idea of loneliness.”
He continues: “It’s about waking up, and you’re someone, and you don’t know who you are or why you are. And then there’s the question of what brought you into this world. In my story, there will be conflict of the parental figures as the scientist who made him and the other people around him. I’m very interested in the subjective lonely experience of being alive in this world and in this culture, and Frankenstein is such a fantastic, iconic way to look at it. And also, there is the physical body horror aspect to this story, of someone being sewn together, and there’s identity horror, too. There’s so much possibility in it that I’m just overflowing with excitement.”
Are you excited about Larry Fessenden’s return to directing? Let us know below!
Depraved is written and directed by Larry Fessenden and set to star David Call, Joshua Leonard and Alex Breaux as the monster. The movie will be produced by Fessenden, Jenn Wexler, and Chadd Harbold.
The film begins shooting this month.
The contemporary re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s timeless classic Frankenstein centers on Henry, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, who creates a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The creature he creates must navigate a strange new world and the rivalry between Henry and his conniving collaborator Polidori.
from Daily Dead by Heather Wixson
For nearly 40 years now, Larry Fessenden has been a cornerstone of the independent horror scene. He’s directed over 20 projects, produced around 70 shorts and features, and has even performed in almost 100 cinematic endeavors. One of the more recent films that Fessenden has been involved with is Robert Mockler’s Like Me, in which he co-stars alongside Addison Timlin and also serves as a producer.
Written and directed by Mockler (who makes his feature debut here), Like Me follows the social media-obsessed Kiya (Timlin), who sets out to film uncomfortable situations (robberies, kidnappings, you name it) in an effort to gain more fame and notoriety amongst the online community at large. But after she takes things too far, Kiya is faced with the ugly truth that the quest for internet fame can come with a hefty price tag attached.
Daily Dead recently had the chance to speak with Fessenden about Like Me, including what attracted him to the project from a producing standpoint as well as his thoughts on digging into his character, Marshall. Fessenden also discussed the vitalness of a film such as Like Me right now, and how Mockler was able to create something special for his very first time at bat as a director. And because it was recently announced, we also spoke to Larry about his next filmmaking venture, Depraved, which is his own take on the classic Frankenstein story.
Look for Like Me to arrive on VOD platforms on Tuesday, February 20th, courtesy of Kino Lorber.
So great to speak with you again, Larry, and especially for this film. I absolutely loved it when I first saw it at SXSW last year, and, I’m so glad to see it finally getting a chance to connect with audiences now, too. Robert created an incredible film with Like Me, and I’m so excited to see people discover it now.
Larry Fessenden: Yeah, it’s really, really gratifying. I can tell you that it’s so hard to make these movies, because you’re not quite sure what you’ve got, and you have your own beliefs and excitement about it. Then, you wonder if the world will take notice. And at SXSW, we had another film that got a lot of lovely attention, and we were very happy for it, but we wondered if Like Me would get that and here we are, which is great.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Obviously, we’re going to dig into the role of Marshall, but I’d love to hear a little bit about the production side of things first, and what made you decide to get involved with Like Me as a producer.
Larry Fessenden: Well, the project came through Jenn Wexler. She recommended it and wanted to help Glass Eye with putting boots on the ground to actually make the film. It had been workshopped over at James Belfer company called Dogfish. We read the script and it was very, very vital, with the topic of social media and our ongoing struggle with loneliness of the individuals in this society, this culture that is more and more fractured because of cable news, but now we have the internet.
I was so excited to make one of our little genre films tackling this topic, but I never felt it was didactic, I felt Rob was coming at it from an artistic perspective. And, I just felt that we were possibly in the presence of a maniac who could tap into all these things, and he then brought the movie to us. We nurtured the movie for quite a long time. We worked with many, many different budgets. Jenn Wexler was constantly revising the numbers, so we could do it at different levels, and then eventually we landed with the very smallest version, but still with a great team in place.
Even though this movie wasn’t made with a huge budget, on a visual level, the things that Robert is able to pull off in this film are just so incredibly ambitious. For me, that’s one of the reasons Like Me is such a standout, because there could have been a safer way to make this movie and not lean into the visuals as much, but man, it just has such a punch to it, because of what he was able to do by marrying the visuals with his story.
Larry Fessenden: Yeah, that was very much his MO, as I say. He had these tone reels that were very kinetic and that was an essential part of the vision. What I really love about movies, and this goes back to Alfred Hitchcock, is the idea of cinema. There’s a certain amount of dialogue in the film that brings life to the characters, but, in the end, it really is a visual medium and Rob was determined in the edit to create those jagged little edits.
Then, we hooked him up with James Siewert, who’s a maniac with the camera, and makes his own rigs. The two of them really hit it off, and they were able to create something very special, and that’s why the movie has that kinetic vibe. That’s how it got its punch.
Talk about tapping into your character, Marshall. For me, what is really fascinating is that he’s a guy that’s very off-putting at first, because of certain actions. There’s still a humanity to him, and in the character of Kiya too, where Robert really tapped into this idea that human beings are still human beings regardless of their imperfections.
Larry Fessenden: Absolutely. Look, it’s very clear to me that if advertising and marketing creates a standard that we can’t possibly achieve, and it is entirely the design of the capitalist society to make you feel like you have to purchase things in order to get there. And that’s why loneliness is baked into our American cultural society. And I feel that there are so many scenes where you could just feel that kind of anguish from each character.
There’s the scene with the homeless dude and the eating. On the one hand, you have the theme of eating, and that’s something that Rob clearly wanted to explore in this film. But when she says, “What animal would you be?” He says, “I’d like to be a big fish in the water. A big creature.” And there’s so much sadness there, and you just realize people feel so beaten down by this hyperkinetic world. So yes, this is a movie about social media, but it’s really about where this culture has brought us to today, and it literally bakes loneliness into the pie.
As for Marshall, yeah, he’s a little bit of a creep, because he very possibly oversteps the line with a younger girl, but it’s also unclear if she’s telling the truth in the same token. I think the reality is, it’s two people in a room and I don’t think he’s going down a list thinking, “Is this legal or not?” He says, “I don’t know if I could live with myself if I didn’t explore this opportunity.” And then, of course, the movie spirals from there.
One thing I appreciated was that the script gives some explanation as to literally what damaged him, but it’s nice that it saves that for later on for when you’ve already made a judgment about him. That’s an interesting structural thing, not to lead with that, and, of course, you never really get backstory from Kiya. These are the things that make a movie haunting and intriguing. You don’t have all the answers laid out right in front of you.
For me, it’s interesting because she really wants these connections, but almost for a self-serving purpose. It’s a real internal struggle that Kiya has. I also loved the fact that even though these characters come together in a really messed up way, there’s almost a sweetness to the relationship, too. You can tell Marshall is conflicted, because sometimes he’s posturing with Kiya, and sometimes he’s being very genuine.
Larry Fessenden: Right. I love that you say that. It’s almost like he’s defiant. I think that I played it that way, and I actually maybe believe that. I never thought of it until this moment, but nowadays, it’s almost defiant to be vulnerable. Or to be candid. Because everyone is self-protecting and they’re so aware of how they’re coming off. Marshall’s lost everything in his mind, and so the one thing he has left is just to put himself out there. And this girl is somebody who is ready to receive him for who he is.
Before we go, I wanted to congratulate you on Depraved. I saw the announcement the other day, and that’s really awesome to hear you’ve got a new directing project coming up.
Larry Fessenden: Oh, cool. Thanks, I’m very excited. We’re going to see what we can do. It’s funny, when a movie is in your head, and then, all of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh crap, now I’ve got to go and put it on the screen,” [laughs]. A friend of mine said that making a movie is making as few bad decisions as you can, where it ends up being a ratio of good decisions to bad decisions, and I believe that.
Because Depraved is tapping into the world of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, I’m curious what is it about this character that appealed to you as a storyteller?
Larry Fessenden: Well, in a funny way, I want to make all the classics again. I’ve made a vampire movie. I want to make a werewolf movie, but Frankenstein is one of the greatest creations of pop culture. The original version is a masterpiece, and oddly enough, it’s a story that hasn’t been done that well since. And it’s often attempted. I feel there’s a core theme in that story that I would like to explore and bring it very much back to this idea of loneliness.
It’s about waking up, and you’re someone, and you don’t know who you are or why you are. And then there’s the question of what brought you into this world. In my story, there will be conflict of the parental figures as the scientist who made him and the other people around him. I’m very interested in the subjective lonely experience of being alive in this world and in this culture, and Frankenstein is such a fantastic, iconic way to look at it. And also, there is the physical body horror aspect to this story, of someone being sewn together, and there’s identity horror, too. There’s so much possibility in it that I’m just overflowing with excitement.
Jenn Wexler’s THE RANGER, produced by Glass Eye Pix and Hood River Entertainment, to world premiere in the SXSW Midnighters section!
Teen punks, on the run from the cops and hiding out in the woods, come up against the local authority—an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.
Cast: Chloë Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden
Directed by Jenn Wexler. Written by Jenn Wexler & Giaco Furino. Produced by Andrew van den Houten, Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead, Heather Buckley, and Jenn Wexler. Co-produced by Chris Skotchdopole. Edited by Jenn Wexler & Abbey Killheffer. Cinematography by James Siewert.
Check it out at SXSW.com.
by Eric Kohn
Few American filmmakers epitomize the spirit of horror made beyond the clutches of Hollywood better than Larry Fessenden, who has directed and produced socially conscious scary movies for decades. Now, IndieWire has exclusively learned that Fessenden is stepping behind the camera for the first in several years to direct “Depraved” from his own script. Billed as a contemporary reimagining of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Fessenden’s project focuses on a field surgeon who suffers from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, and creates a living human out of body parts in his Gowanus, Brooklyn lab.
This is not the first time Fessenden has used the backdrop of a creepy laboratory to explore real-world concerns. His 1991 feature “No Telling” focused on a man experimenting on animals and the impact of the work on his personal life. Fessenden is best known for directing the 1999 New York vampire drama “Habit,” the mystical “Wendigo,” and the eco-thriller “The Last Winter.” He last directed the Chiller-produced monster movie “Beneath,” and has produced countless low budget projects through his Glass Eye Pix, including Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” and Jim Mickle’s “Stake Land.” Glass Eye Pix also produces the radio horror series “Tales From Beyond the Pale,” which premiered its latest season on IndieWire in 2017.
For “Depraved,” Fessenden said he was excited to bring the “Frankenstein” narrative into a contemporary context. In a statement, he called his approach to the story “deeply personal and visceral,” adding, “I’ve been moved by the iconic character since childhood and it is a great thrill to try and put my version on the screen.”
The movie begins production in New York in February. It stars David Call, Joshua Leonard, and Alex Breaux (“Bushwick”) as the monster.
The project will be produced by Joe Swanberg’s Forager Films, which recently premiered Josephine Decker’s “Madeline’s Madeline” at Sundance. “Larry Fessenden has consistently made groundbreaking, intelligent, socially relevant films in addition to shepherding some of the most important young voices in genre filmmaking,” Swanberg said. “We could not be more excited to collaborate with him on this project.”