Darren Lynn Bousman has proved to be a quite prolific director, so much so that I was unaware that he was even making The Barrens, let alone it getting a Blu-ray release. He first came to our attention with a triple-whammy of Saw films, all of which I thoroughly enjoy, and then came the rather wonderful Repo: The Genetic Opera. After this it goes a bit ass about tit, with 11-11-11 coming out on DVD around about the same time as his Mother's Day reboot hit shiny. 11-11-11 being a misfire for the most part, although not terrible, and the long delayed Mother's Day being a wonderfully brutal home invasion flick. Now, we have The Barrens dropping on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, as I wait quietly for The Devil's Carnival to get a wide release. For those that have lost count, that's 9 films in 7 years. Told you he was prolific.
So, after all that rambling, I shall now focus on the case at hand; that being The Barrens. Set in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, but actually filmed in Canada, The Barrens follows the Vineyard family as they head out into the titular Barrens, so that Michael (the father and husband) can scatter the ashes of his deceased father in the area that they used to camp in.
Along the way we get to learn a little about the myth of the Jersey Devil, including a short, sharp and sweet prologue piece, and the usual trials and tribulations of a slightly dysfunctional family. The campsite that they head to is nothing like Michael remembers it to be, instead it is overrun and one of the kids succeeds in scaring the bejeezus out of Michael's son, Danny, with his tale of the Jersey Devil.
As the film progresses we, as the viewer, are asked whether this is a film about a man, Michael, hunted by the Jersey Devil, or a man that is on the brink of a mental breakdown as he suffers from an initially unknown ailment. All will be revealed of course, and the film doesn't always go where you think it will.
I can honestly say that I had no idea what to expect from this film. I thought Mother's Day was excellent, but 11-11-11 had me worried, so where would it fall in Bousman's quality of output? Well, I can safely say that it falls into his better movies. It isn't without fault; you will find yourself questioning many of the characters actions, of that I can assure you, but Stephen Moyer, as Michael, puts in a disturbing performance and helps carry the film along in its many directions.
That is also one of the film's flaws; Bousmann has tried to cram a lot of ideas into what should have been a fairly simple plotline. Bear with him though, as this tale is a good one, and as you might expect from Bousman he isn't afraid to throw the claret and guts about, without losing a sense of dread and atmosphere.
The Barrens is a good looking movie, with the woods of Ontario, Canada, being utilized nicely, along with sharp looking cinematography and decent sound effects. I could have done without some hokey music playing from a radio in one abandoned campsite, and Michael gets hit on the head one too many times, but the direction the plot takes is a quite refreshing one.
This release does come complete with an audio commentary from Bousman and his director of photography, Joseph White, but aside from that and one deleted scene, there is nowt else in the extras. I can live with that though as The Barrens is an above average chiller that kept my attention, even when it wasn't firing on all cylinders.
The Barrens is well worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Bousman's movies, or are just looking for a creepy and entertaining yarn. At the end of the day, The Barrens is a solid and surprising movie.