23 August 2018 (released)
24 August 2018
And so the Arrow Video FrightFest 2018 opens with a brace of completely different films that exemplify the diversity and complexity of the genre.
The Ranger is the more typical of the two as it takes the slasher into the woods as five friends on the run from the police after a murder decide that the place to hide out is Chelsea’s (Chloe Levine) uncle’s old abandoned cabin in the forest. His death is mysterious and torments Chelsea, as does the aforementioned Ranger (Jeremy Holm) who is aby the book character who’s happy to set out the bylaws of the park and having crossed them give out justice. He too has a connection to Chelsea that becomes apparent as the films progresses.
It’s fairly leisurely build up to the violence as we are introduced to the characters, that on the whole are pretty unlikeable bunch, apart from Chelsea whom the writers have clearly singled out for the heartstrings. However, its Holm’s Ranger that’s the focus here and also the main problem as Jenn Wexler wrestles with a few ideas and directions. There’s some comedy in the Ranger officially reciting the breached bylaws and then taking summary action. Though that element is not really pursued as Wexler shifts to a more psychological angle between Chelsea and the Ranger. The connection is set up early but never convinces even with revelations that follow. Overall it’s a trifle muddled though generally quite fun.
Summer of ’84 is completely different. Set in 1984 and, as now, teenage boys will be boys in this intense and engrossing tale of surveillance, missteps, obsession and growing up.
Four friends Davey, Eats, Woody and Curtis are seeing their teens out with the usual fixations of music, comics and girls. In the background there is the Cape May Slayer who has been operating for a number of years and seemingly nowhere near capture. Davey suspects that his neighbour, police office Mr Mackey is the killer and enlists his friends to help expose him. They go along with this; they are in a small boring suburban town where nothing much happens, so it’s a distraction.
Its fun at first as each has a role and the banter between the friends is just so natural. As is Davey’s ‘liking’ of his ex-babysitter Nicky whom also comes under teenage hormonal led surveillance. As they delve deeper things come to light though not quite as expected which sets them up against authority, and themselves.
Viewers may well work it all out quite quickly. But the success of this film is that it almost doesn’t matter as you are swept and kept engrossed all the way through. There’s lightness of touch here that allows the boys to banter freely and naturally while creating tension as they investigate and get themselves into situations.
The boredom of suburbia and the behind closed doors lives are touched on as they pull tougher, and then part, even as each character has their own problems be it families and broken homes or just the frustration of growing up. In some respects the horror is getting stuck where they are. However, make no mistake this has its grisly moments.
It is seamlessly put together by directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoan-Karl Whissell with careful direction, some brilliant editing and a wonderful 80’s inspired soundtrack in the background. This writer initially felt that there was an ending too far but what unravels is a gruelling torment and one that will crawl around the mind for a long time to come.
Illustration by Graham Humphreys.