Toronto After Dark 2018: ‘Prospect’ and ‘The Ranger’

Prospect (DIR. Chris Caldwell, Zeek Earl)

First, we lived through “mumblecore”.  Then, we were subjected to “mumblegore”.  Now, it seems like the next logical step is to “mumblego” where no man has gone before.  Case in point: Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s exercise in furious navel-gazing, Prospect, a film so enamored by its own cleverness that it manages to make its modest runtime seem endless.  A film whose total lack of direction in favour of world-building will make you wish it would just end.

Prospect starts with a father and daughter in a spaceship on their way to a planet to harvest some sort of McGuffin, who are intercepted by another individual.  A film does not need to explain everything;  that is not at all the argument being made here.  A film does however need to give its viewers a reason to care.  The McGuffins certainly look interesting and their extraction process is commendable, but so what?  Similarly, the spaceship designs are aesthetically pleasing right at the beginning, but their increasing attempts at minimalism makes the whole film look a like a “Sweded” film (ala Be Kind Rewind).

In contrast to the relatively clean – if slightly contrived – spaceship sequences, the on-planet sequences look like they were shot with a toaster that fell into a vat of Vaseline.  The most interesting aspect of Prospect comes from its replacement of the sterile outer-space aesthetic of generic sci-fi with a natural, earthly atmosphere, a forest standing in for an inhospitable planet.  However, this one positive doesn’t make up for all the other negatives.

If you want to experience this aspect, simply acquire a copy of Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe and call it a day.


The Ranger (DIR. Jenn Wexler)

Disclaimer: there are some specific genres that this critic will enjoy 95 percent of the time, no matter what.  One of those is the “punk film”.  Recent years have not been the best for punk cinema, but there are still occasional masterpieces.  The issue is that filmmakers have strayed from the punk aesthetic into a much more polished and easy-to-sell genre.  Despite that, as long as a film has a great punk soundtrack and a colourful cast, this critic will enjoy it.  The latest film in this genre is Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger, a polished punk rock slasher film which takes a moment to get going but is absolutely worth staying with.

The Ranger starts at a punk show, where a bunch of stoned teenagers are rushed by the police, leading to one dead cop and five kids on the run.  Escaping to a mountain, they come across the prototypical good guy with a gun – a park ranger obsessed with upholding the law with his encyclopedic knowledge of US law and his trusty rifle.  As expected, things go wrong.

The first act looks absolutely generic, almost indistinguishable from the recent slate of MTV-style punk-lite productions.  However, this is all intentional, since this isn’t just a punk film.  This is also a camp film (there is a pun to be made here) and an American satire.  The punks and authority figure in this film seem to be taken out of a demented after-school special, leading to some laugh-out-loud hilarity throughout.  Without giving too much away, the third act doesn’t even seem like a punk film.

What else is there to say?  This film has a great soundtrack, great kills, great gore and great characters.  The Ranger is just…great.


For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.

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Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
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