Jenn Wexler Beautifully Blends Punk Rock and 80s Slashers in ‘The Ranger’

The woods are no place for punks—at least, that seems to be the case in Jenn Wexler’s feature film debut, The Ranger. Despite their studded jackets and tough attitudes, Wexler’s punks are no match for a deranged park ranger who knows these woods like the back of his hand. Set to a screaming soundtrack and chock full of gnarly kills, The Ranger is a creative reimagining of 1980s slasher films that rewrites its more harmful tropes into something perfect for our current cultural moment, a brilliant mashing of nostalgia and progressive filmmaking.

Chelsea (Chloë Levine) is an angsty punk who is haunted by a trauma in her past. She snorts coke, thrashes around at shows, and surrounds herself with insufferable people who help her keep the demons at bay. All that is initially shown about this trauma is a younger version of herself (Jeté Laurence, fresh off a wild performance in Pet Sematary) sitting on a cliff with The Ranger (Jeremy Holm), who tells her she is a wolf. But her coke-fueled haze is interrupted when cops bust into the bar where she’s partying with her boyfriend and friends. As she tries to escape the law, her intolerable boyfriend, Garth (Granit Lahu), stabs a cop to help her get away.

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VIDEO: It’s Alive! – Rebirth and Transformation in Horror

This month’s video was posted a little late, it marks the debut of our writer, Mary Beth McAndrews (@mbmcandrews), as part of our video team! Mary Beth is a cinema studies major with a focus on the horror genre, so her new video focusing on the themes of rebirth and transformation is a perfect encapsulation of her interests.

If you want to stay updated on our content, or see these new videos as soon as possible, be sure to follow us at @muchadocinema on twitter!

‘I Trapped the Devil’ is a Tense, Yet Slow, Look at Evil

Despite the Christmas tree and colored lights that deck the halls of I Trapped The Devil, this is anything but an uplifting Christmas tale. There are no presents under this tree, only paranoia and seeming delusions about evil that wash away any wishes of good fortune that are whispered during the holiday season. Josh Lobo’s directorial debut is a haunting tale that makes the potentially hellish ordeal of celebrating Christmas even more terrifying.

I Trapped The Devil follows a couple, Matt (Josh Bowen) and Karen (Susan Burke), as they decide to visit Steve (Scott Poythress), Matt’s brother, for Christmas. Steve lives alone in a large house and has suffered some kind of tragedy that led to him losing his wife and child (though this is never fully explained). However, Steve is not excited to see them; in fact he is furious. He paces and wrings his hands while the couple declare they are staying to keep him company for the holidays, no matter how much he protests. But, they come to regret this choice as they discover Steve’s secret: he has someone locked in the basement. Behind a padlocked door, adorned with a giant crucifix, is what Steve says is the devil. We never get to see this man, but we hear his bewitching voice as he tries to get someone to release him from this prison. But is he really the devil? This is what Matt and Karen grapple with as they begin to question Steve’s sanity. Has grief driven him to madness or has he really trapped the essence of evil?

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‘Pet Sematary’ Struggles with The Past But Delivers Delightfully Original Scares

Pet Sematary is a book that author Stephen King called his “worst” because of how much is scared him. And it is a terrifying story, dealing with the monstrosity that is grief. While it was adapted into a film by Mary Lambert in 1989, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have adapted it again, in a move that made horror fans wary and begged the question: why do we need this film? But this recent adaptation, offering callbacks and homages to the original film while also creating a fresh take on a classic horror story, establishes a more terrifying tale that examines the deep psychological trauma of grief and the horrifying actions people wrapped in grief are capable of.

The film begins with the Creed family moving from Boston to the sleepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) has taken a position as a campus doctor with the goal of slowing down and spending more time with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter, Ellie (Jete Laurence), and baby son, Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie). Shortly after they move in, Rachel and Ellie discover a pet cemetery in the woods behind their house. They learn from their neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), that the children of Ludlow have buried their pets there for generations, making a sort of twisted ritual out of it. But something sinister lurks around the cemetery, a force that seems to feed on grief.

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Larry Fessenden’s ‘Depraved’ is A Mess of Limbs, Organs, and Emotions

Cracking open Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in high school probably seemed like a chore. Flipping through pages of dense prose, mandatory class discussion, and inevitable reading quizzes sucked the enjoyment out of such a rich novel. There have been plenty of adaptations of the tale, but now Shelley’s masterpiece has received a 21st-century makeover in the form of Larry Fessenden’s latest film, Depraved, a deeply-sad horror film that speaks to our societally-ingrained selfishness.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to dust off those old, crinkled copies of Frankenstein from your parents’ basement to enjoy Depraved. Even those unfamiliar with the plot will enjoy Fessenden’s contemporary interpretation. Adam (Alex Breaux) is Depraved’s Frankenstein’s monster, a young man put together from different parts in a dingy lab built in a warehouse in New York City that resembles any New York millennial’s apartment. Scientist Henry (David Call), employed by Polidori (Joshua Leonard), has finally figured out how to resurrect the dead. But Henry is a veteran suffering from PTSD, trying to use his findings to help future soldiers. So on top of caring for himself, he must take care of Adam and teach him how to be a human, from eating and speaking to reading and playing ping pong. Adam floats through the world in a strange limbo of vague understanding, absorbing the world with an innocence only experienced by the blissfully naive. Yet, this all starts to fall apart as Adam begins to regain memories and learn that he is nothing more than a science experiment, meant to bring fame and fortune to Polidori’s pharmaceutical company.

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‘Us’ is a Puzzle Box That Interrogates the American Illusion

The power of great genre films, to me, is that they are able to tackle larger abstractions and broad truths about humanity under layers of subtext, whilst still letting us go through an out of this world, moviegoing experience. When I think of the idea of the doppelganger, a traditional horror/sci-fi staple, the being that looks exactly like ourselves invading our own bubbles, I think of the stories that often seek to shed light on our own insecurities. Invasion of the Body SnatchersPossession, and more recently, Annihilation and Enemy, all films that use this specific symbol are based on a destructive, human feeling; a depressive itch you can’t scratch, the demon on your shoulder telling you that you’re not quite the person you project yourself to be. My relationship with social media in the last few months has made me realize that this imposter syndrome I feel is a mode of my own living, but when I’m aware of it, there lies an insidious feeling in my gut, and my sense of self melts away. All of these concepts were stirred up in my brain once again, but this time, instead of just the focus on the self, there’s a broader statement here about our society as a whole. This is America. This is Us.

us-family

Jordan Peele’s Us is the sophomore follow-up to his Academy-Award winning social horror thriller, Get Out, which took the film landscape by storm. While following up a film like Get Out is an immense amount of pressure, Peele handles it with so much grace. Here he is, channeling that history he made with his debut and recentering the energy into something entirely new. Just add in Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elisabeth Moss, and you have a mid-level budget effort that feels so much like an event film of its own. While previously he worked with Blumhouse, which houses a specific model for their films, Peele now has his screenwriting Oscar, a production company of his own, Monkeypaw Productions, and an unhinged amount of ambition to craft yet another social horror film to instigate our worst nightmares and how they blend with our own reality.

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Badass Women, Stunning Visuals, and Subverting Expectations: Looking Back at This Year in Horror

2018 was a year of amazing horror films. While a certain Vogue article may disagree, 2018 was a year for pushing boundaries in the genre and creating complex female characters who weren’t just vehicles for over-the-top sex scenes. It was a year where “woman” no longer meant singular sex object, with films like Revenge, What Keeps You Alive, and Cam. It was a year of experimentation, as seen in Mandy and Possum, which create unique, and psychedelic, visual experiences. While the past five years have been full of this kind of boundary-pushing, from The VVItch to Get Out, 2018 continued to showcase the diverse voices in the horror community and demonstrate how the face of horror is changing.

While this piece will primarily highlight the positives of horror in 2018, this was not a year without its failures. The Nun, Truth or Dare, Winchester and more made up this year’s big blockbuster releases, and all were met with a resounding shrug; these movies made to draw the big crowds to the box office instead kept the horny teens away. The two horror films that drew crowds this year were A Quiet Place and Hereditary, two films that strayed away from the typical horror narrative and created unique stories that perhaps wouldn’t always make their way into the mainstream. Despite the bigger name flops, indie horror filmmakers really showed up to create pieces of horrifying media that resonated both throughout the horror community, and in some cases larger audiences.

Redefining Genres

Rape-revenge films are commonly exploitative, over-the-top, and torturous to their female characters. Think of films such as I Spit on Your Grave or Ms. 45. But, director Coralie Fargaet wanted to change this with Revenge, a film in the vein of the French New Extremity that uses rape as more than a plot device or site of spectacle.

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