BARE BONES: THE RANGER (2018)

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THE RANGER (2018)

Chelsea (Chloë Levine) and her punk rocker friends are on the run after an incident leaves a police officer gravely wounded. They flee up to her deceased uncle Pete’s (Larry Fessenden) cabin deep in the woods to hide out. There they encounter a psychotic park ranger (Jeremy Holm) who is linked to Chelsea’s past and is not happy with her choice of friends.

Flick is directed with a nod to 80s slashers by Jenn Wexler from her script with Giaco Furino. It’s got a lot of the elements that provided the template for horror flicks of that era, such as, a deranged individual, past reveals and bloody kills. It’s not overly suspenseful or scary, but there are a few brutal moments. It’s heart is in the right place and it does evoke the type of films it’s paying homage to very well. Wexler knows her inspirations, with no better example than a head in a birdcage bringing back memories of Charles Kaufman’s cult classic Mother’s Day. Chloë Levine makes a strong and likable heroine and Jeremy Holm is effective as the demented ranger with an unhealthy attachment to Chelsea. On a technical level, the film looks good, the gore well-rendered and there is a nostalgic 80s style electronic score from Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon Macpherson, along with some 80s-esque punk rock songs. A fun slasher throwback from Jenn Wexler. Also stars Amanda Grace Benitez as Amber, Jeremy Pope as Jerk, Bubba Weiler as Abe and Granit Lahu as Chelsea’s boyfriend Garth. Now streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEPRAVED (2019)

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DEPRAVED (2019)

Modern day Frankenstein tale has former army medic Henry (David Call) suffering from a traumatic tour in the Middle East and wanting to use his talents for a good purpose. He teams up with pharmaceutical exec Polidori (Joshua Leonard) to combine a new drug and Henry’s medical skills in the creation of a human being from spare body parts. Adam (Alex Breaux) is the result and at first seems like a naive child, but as in all such tales, the combination of the harshness of the world around him and the truth of his existence turns Adam’s curiosity and innocence into anger and rage.

Larry Fessenden is one of the hardest working people in indie horror and here he returns to write, direct, produce and edit this New York set modern day Frankenstein. He does so very well and presents an intriguing and effecting updating of the oft told classic tale. Fessenden has updated the players. His Dr. Frankenstein is now an emotionally disturbed combat veteran, who thinks he can bring his healing talents to the world through Adam. The manipulative Polidori represents big pharma and wants to promote his new healing drug and will go to any lengths, even murder, to do so through Henry’s work. Their “creature” Adam is a bandage for Henry’s emotional wounds, while to Polidori, he is a marketing tool to be exploited. Adam himself, is a conflicted being trying to deal with his “new” and complex emotions, the vague memories of a past life and find his place in this sometimes “depraved” world. His anger and rage over wanting to be loved and treated like a human being sets-up a tragic and violent last act much like in Shelley’s classic. Fessenden tells this new slant on the story well and might be one of the few filmmakers who could successfully transport Mary Shelley’s gothic tale from Victorian England to the warehouse loft apartments and sometimes mean streets of modern day New York City. Fessenden’s script presents Adam as sympathetic and we do feel for him, as he is manipulated and taught about being human by possibly the two worst choices in Henry and his partner. Only Henry’s girlfriend Liz (Ana Kayne) shows any true compassion for Adam as a person and not a thing. It’s an interesting and involving telling and possibly the freshest take on the classic story in quite some time.

The cast are really good here. David Call as Henry, much like his namesake, is also a bit sympathetic as his original intent is good. A skilled combat medic who has discovered ways to revive the very recently dead and Adam represents all the soldiers he couldn’t save. He is sometimes overprotective of Adam till he, like Shelley’s doctor, realizes he may have made a mistake, when Adam starts to grow frustrated and uncooperative. Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard is solid as the scheming and somewhat flamboyant Polidori. He sees Adam as a showpiece to demonstrate a new drug and even somewhat of a toy. His idea of introducing the world to the “creation” is to take him to strip clubs and introduce him to illegal drugs, sleazy women and alcohol. Alex Breaux is very impressive and sympathetic as Adam. Adam must learn to handle his emotions all over again. It’s no surprise he is conflicted with such bad examples to teach him and being haunted by memories and people from another life. Finding out who he really is and how he came to be, pushes him over the edge. We sympathize with him and never see him as a “monster” even when he causes harm. Ana Kayne is good as the sweet and caring Liz, as is Addison Timlin as Shelley, a playful yet ill-fated girl Adam encounters in a bar. A good cast.

Overall, Fessenden has given a very intriguing and sometimes intense update of a time worn classic. He puts a contemporary modern day New York spin on Mary Shelley’s legendary tale. The heart and soul of the original story are here, but woven in with more modern day themes. Adam, the “monster”, is sympathetic and we understand his growing frustration and eventual anger. An intriguing new take on a classic story by filmmaker Larry Fessenden.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Adams.

 

 

 

 

 

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