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The Barn (Movie Review)

The Barn (Movie Review)
12.13.2016by: Cody Hamman
8 10

PLOT: A group of teenagers pick the wrong town to do their trick-or-treating in, stirring up the legendary horrors of The Boogeyman, Hallowed Jack, and the Candycorn Scarecrow.

REVIEW: I could never get tired of watching horror movies from the 1980s, and I have a particular fondness for the slasher movies made during that era. I'm obviously not alone in this, because in recent years there has been an abundance of movies released that pay homage to '80s horror, even going so far as to be set in the '80s themselves. I'm always interested in checking these movies out, and some I have liked, several I have disliked. When I put one of them on, I have something very specific in mind. I got into horror in the '80s, the movie I credit with pulling me into the genre is JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI, which I saw as soon as it was released on VHS. When I watch one of these '80s-set homage films, I want to see something that replicates the look and tone of the movies I was seeing in my earliest horror-watching days. So far, director Justin M. Seaman's THE BARN is the closest any movie has gotten to being exactly what I'm hoping to see. Succeeding where other movies of this type have let me down, it is very nearly the perfect '80s homage.

The events of THE BARN occur in 1989, and of all its good points my favorite thing about it is the fact that it doesn't use the decade as a source of humor. Too often such movies go over-the-top and serve as a parody of what they're paying tribute to. I don't want to see a mockery of the '80s, I want to see a movie that looks and feels like it was made and released in the '80s. That's what THE BARN is. The '80s setting is an aesthetic choice, and Seaman and his crew did their best to pull off the '80s on a low budget, even downgrading the quality of the image a bit to make it look like the movie was shot almost thirty years ago. Even when there are elements that might make you laugh, like the opening of a show hosted by a guy who calls himself Dr. Rock or a character's preoccupation with his Walkman, they still feel true to the time period. 

The film is set in the small town of Wheary Falls, where the barn standing on the property of Wheary Farms is off limits on Halloween night - legend has it that if you knock on the barn door three times while saying "Trick or treat" it will awaken three demons who are dressed as trick-or-treaters: a miner, a man with a pumpkin for a head, and a scarecrow. Much like Freddy Krueger, this trio even has their own rhyme: "The Boogeyman wants to crack your back, cut you into pieces to carry in his sack. The pumpkin man Hallowed Jack wants to carve out your head, slash you with his vines until you're dead. And if you get scared, don't you cry or the Candycorn Scarecrow will surely eat your eyes."

A pre-title sequence set in 1959 assures us that these demons are real and homicidal, and on Halloween night in 1989 the demons are unleashed again by a group of unlucky teenagers led by a kid who should really know better. That's Sam, who was told the rhyme of the barn's demons as a child and has spent way too much time crafting a list of rules that he follows to get through Halloween safely. But with high school graduation coming up in seven months this Halloween is Sam's "last hoorah" before adulthood, so he goes along with his friends when they decide to knock on the door of a random barn that just happens to be THE BARN and say "Trick or treat". The demons rise, and the group of friends will need to follow Sam's rules to survive the night.

The demons don't only set out to destroy the group of teens, they also whittle down the population of Wheary Falls, and random citizens are at the receiving end of their slashing in the film's standout sequence, a massacre at the annual Harvest Hootenanny. The budget for THE BARN's special effects were obviously quite limited, but the film still delivers some impressive deaths, including decapitations, face peels, severed body parts, torn out hearts, and gut spillage.

Helping Seaman perfectly capture the '80s atmosphere is the music composed by Rocky Gray, whose score sounds exactly like something you would have heard in the days of '80s metal. The songs on the soundtrack follow suit, including the Sykotik Sinfoney song "Mr. Cool", which I recognized from the 1992 Full Moon movie BAD CHANNELS.

There are some familiar faces in the film's cast as well. Scream queen Linnea Quigley and first Jason Voorhees Ari Lehman show up in early scenes that set the teens along their path, and Rik Billock - who I know best from Bill Hinzman's 1988 zombie movie FLESHEATER - plays an important role as a preacher. It was great to see all them in this film, and seeing Billock in another horror film that had a barn as a prominent location was especially entertaining for this FLESHEATER devotee.

THE BARN gets a lot right, but it's not without its issues, the primary one being the pace and running time. I felt that the movie was too long at just under 98 minutes; it seemed to drag at times and could have been more fun if it had been trimmed down a bit. The characters do a whole lot of talking and spinning their wheels - for example, there's a moment when the demons walk past Sam and steal his bag of trick-or-treat candy. You might expect that someone who has just had their candy bag snatched might get loud and go after the thieves, especially since that candy wasn't just for him to enjoy, Sam is gathering it for a purpose. Instead, he and his friends just stand there and talk about the theft for 30 seconds, weighing their options before deciding to just let the bag go. The entire film plays out in that same low-key way. Although a lot of its minutes are dedicated to the climactic battle, even that feels like it was dragged out longer than it should have been.

With an excellent visual style, THE BARN is a really fun movie that harkens back to the '80s glory days in a wonderful way. This is the sort of movie I would love to see more of, it just could have benefited from moving at a quicker pace and wrapping up 10 minutes or so sooner.

Extra Tidbit: THE BARN is now available for purchase on DVD at www.thebarnmerch.com

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