16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Jude D. Felton
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did.
You can ask anybody in New Jersey, and they will probably tell you. The legend of the Jersey Devil, a nightmarish creature that is rumored to live within the dense Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, has been around for over 400 years. The story of it has, within that time, attained the same level of mysticism that currently surrounds the oft-mentioned folklores of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
The most accepted origin of the tale, at least as far the residents of New Jersey are concerned, began with Mother Leeds and reads as follows:
"It was said that Mother Leeds had 13 children and, after giving birth to her 12th child, stated that if she had another, it would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night. Gathered around her were her friends. Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child's father was the Devil himself. The child was born normal, but then changed form. It changed from a normal baby to a creature with hooves, a horse's head, bat wings and a forked tail. It growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the pines. In 1740 a clergy exorcised the demon for 100 years and it wasn't seen again until 1890."
That, in a nutshell, is the basic setup for "The Barrens," the latest feature film by Director Darren Lynn Bousman. Mr. Bousman, who some horror fans might remember from his contributions to the "Saw" franchise, trades graphic gore and massive body counts for a far more subtle and effectively eerie psychological character study. The screenplay focuses upon a man-(Stephen Moyer from HBO's popular "True Blood" vampire series)-who, within the downward spiral of a full-fledged mental collapse, becomes convinced that he and his family are being stalked while camping in the Pine Barrens by the legendary Jersey Devil.
Moyer, who is using his native British accent here, channels Jack Nicholson from "The Shining" as, little by little, his grasp on reality and his very sanity slowly begins to flake away. Bousman does a uniform job at breaking down the reason for Moyer's decline, so much to the point where you're actually wondering whether anything he's witnessing is the real deal or all in his head. And that, believe it or not, is what really helps sell this movie. It keeps you riveted straight through to the very end.
And, what an ending! The payoff it rewards you with is so worth it in ways I dare not spoil. It was enough of a pleasant surprise to motivate me towards adding "The Barrens" to my ever-blossoming Blu-Ray collection.
As video releases go, the Blu-Ray isn't all bad. The picture quality ranks right up there with the very best. There are no special features to speak of, unfortunately, not even a behind-the-scenes featurette; something I had actually wanted to see. But you do get a deleted scene, an alternate add-on to the existing ending that I personally feel should have been restored, and a running commentary by Bousman, himself.
A rather cool and catchy opening tune by Kevin Welch, too, I must say.
I am and always have been a rabid fan of any and all things horror, and I was very pleased with the way this film played out. To anyone who may, for whatever reason, be on the fence about watching it, I say: go for it! It's a welcome change of pace, especially if you're in the mood for something different.