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THE BARRENS
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman

Starring:
Stephen Moyer
Mia Kirshner
Erik Knudsen
Allie MacDonald
Shawn Ashmore

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Rick rounds up his new wife Cynthia, son Danny and teenager daughter Sadie to head off camping in the woods of Jersey. It's a chance for the family to connect and for Richard to scatter his late father's ashes. Things don't go as planned though, as Richard begins experiencing some physical and mental trauma, while the family dog has disappeared. Could it be that the Jersey Devil legend is real and after this family?
Is it good movie?
I headed into The Barrens hoping to charge along a path that would leave me creeped out and interested. Unfortunately, what I ended up with was a camping trip where the fire got pissed out a bit too early. This isn't to say that the movie sucks or anything, but it's a bit of a mess.

I'd like to first give props to Steven Moyer, who's great as Richard, our protagonist who's one of those tortured fellas. The guy is really flexing his acting muscles here and remains sympathetic while he descends into seemingly inescapable insanity.  The idea here seems to be that this is one of those flicks where it's all "is it a monster or is it man", but it isn't spelled out properly and there are some pretty strong hints dropped early on.

The Barrens is definitely trying to be awesome. It crams a lot of stuff into the mix, trying to do a mind-melter, a monster movie and a family dynamic into the mix but it just doesn't weave properly. It jars a bit and on their own, each piece can be looked at and taken in by the viewer but all together it seems a bit disjointed. The whole thing just feels like it's all over the place. I'm not sure if it just got hacked up in the editing room, but it seems like it ust can't decide if it's a "dude gone nuts" or a creature feature. On a positive note, you've got the fine looking Mia Kirshner (where have you been?) playing Moyer's wife.

The characters are well developed though, for the most part. The Jersey woods make for a frightening and atmospheric setting that will play with your mind. In terms of blood, scares and gore, they're appropriately mixed in and look pretty good. This isn't a movie that relies on the red stuff, but there's plenty of animal horror and wounds and stuff like that. With that said, if I never see another "jump/flash/scary image/loud noise" quick cut, it'll be too soon. The whole thing just felt like it was lacking tension, which is disappointing given that it has a terrifying beast from the nightmares of local legend. It should have been gripping and filled with anxious energy but the whole thing actually plods along a bit.

As for the creature itself, let's just say that whether it exists or not you'll see it at some point in the film, it's pretty ugly (which might explain the quick cuts). The pace is pretty slow, and the multiple approaches only add a bit of fluff to a somewhat overlong flick. On top of that, the ending really didn't pay off, in my books. It was a real head-smacker that just didn't do the story justice.

Without a truly solid hook to sink your teeth into, it's hard not to be somewhat disappointed by this film. It's not overly scary or dramatic, and although Moyer turns in a good performance, he's not enough to carry the whole film.  Darren Bousman is still pretty awesome in my book, but at some point this one went wrong. The biggest recommendation I can give to this one is to make sure you listen to the commentary track, where you can get an honest recounting of the filmmaker's thoughts. On the whole, it is indeed watchable but pretty hard to love-The Barrens is bit of a miss.

Video / Audio
The film comes in 1.78:1 widescreen with a 1080p presentation. It looks decent and is relatively sharp, with some pretty impressive colors popping through.

Audio comes in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is super impressive. Great surround work, clear dialogue and excellent sound effects. Wow!
The Extras
Not much in the way of extras here. A DVD copy of the film is included.

There's an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Darren Lynn Bousman and Director of Photography Joseph White, and it's really quite informative and riveting. If you want background and information involving just about every aspect of this film, this is worth listening to. Good stuff.

There's also a brief and forgettable deleted scene with optional commentary from the director and DOP.
Last Call
This one feels like an "almost there" sort of flick with a lot of potential but can't seem to find its true focus, getting a bit lost in the shuffle of different ideas. It has some memorable moments, but whether or not you think it's worth wading through the rest of the film is up to you. Close, but no cigar.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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