Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
Darren Lynn Bousman
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
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
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!
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.
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.