Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie McDonald
So what we have here is the director and writer of SAW teaming with a star from True Blood teaming to craft a new version of the old school Jersey Devil story. This sounds like horror movie gold right?
So the story in The Barrens is pretty straightforward Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) plays a man ready to deal with the death of his father by taking his family on a camping trip in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. His father brought him there on similar trips when he was growing up. So he and his wife and son, and a daughter from a now deceased first wife hit the road for a little family fun. Richard is desperate for a break from all of the city chaos too. He’s so determined to get away from it all that he doesn’t even allow his family to utilize their cell phones.
As their trip progresses Richard becomes more and more paranoid and unstable, seeing things and remembering something that happened to him as a child. He believes that the fabled Jersey Devil is stalking him and his family. His family soon begins to see that their father is very sick and may even be responsible for some deaths in the woods. The battle for survival finally begins in the final 20 minutes of the film.
So, I really enjoy a slow burn, which is what The Barrens attempts to be but the problem is that the execution of the film and the script are just fatally flawed. The bulk of the film tries to convince viewers that there might be a question of whether there is in fact a Jersey Devil or if Richard is just a lunatic. The problem is that the film opens with the devil killing off a couple so there truly is no mystery. So, at the end of the film when the devil reveals himself to everyone else (other than Richard who has seen him several times) there’s no surprise even though the film acts as if there should be. Now there is another layer of mystery in this film but it too is terribly executed. It attempts to be subtle leading to again, a reveal at the end of the film, but the hints throughout the film make the character in question just seem like a jerk rather than be affected the way he truly is. Admittedly this little riff would probably have worked a little better had the rest of the film not been such a massive failure.
The Barrens is a low budget film yes but the man that brought us SAW (for better or for worse) should have had a stronger creative team in the area of special fx. The devil looks ridiculous and he never seems to actually do anything other than stand around out of focus. There’s absolutely nothing scary about him. Sadly there’s just nothing redeeming about this film beyond a single watch sort of Saturday night SYFY Channel movie experience.
The HD 1080p blu-ray presentation actually shows off the flaws in the look of this film. With that said the presentation is as clean as a film shot on 16 mm film can be and the colors seem to be represented in the way the source material meant for them to be. The transfer is good even if it does show off the weaknesses of the execution of the film.
The DTS HD presentation here is just weak, literally. The dialogue at the beginning is just way too soft. Moyer can be a bit mumbly when he’s trying to be subtly emotional so soft sound is not a great thing. After the first act the dialogue does level out better but the whole presentation is just flat. It could be standard stereo and not make much of a difference.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
So the cover art of the standard slim amaray box feels like that of a low budget film. There’s heavy feature of Moyer’s face and basic nondescript woods in the background of the monochromatic image. There’s a little additional footage with commentary and a feature length commentary with the director and cinematographer. The commentary is mostly full of excuses from the director about why the film is bad and how it could have been good. The cinematographer brags about some night for day shots that are in reality pretty terrible looking on the blu-ray. I will say the honesty is refreshing though.
The Barrens is just a bad movie. It’s so bad that it’s hard to believe it is a pet project of the director.
Overall (Not an average) 3/10
The Movie 2/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 4/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 3/10