It’s new release day in the US, and out on shelves today on DVD and Blu-ray is The Barrens, from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The Barrens is based on the Jersey Devil, one of America’s oldest ghost stories that also happens to be the inspiration for my favorite sports team name (New Jersey Devils). Not that that will cloud my opinion in any way.
The Barrens is the tale of the Vineyard family. Richard (Stephen Moyer) wants to take his family camping in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey so he can spread his father’s ashes in the river where they used to camp and fish. Unfortunately for Richard, nobody else in the family has the same interest in a camping trip, but they reluctantly go along. Once at the Barrens, Richard is once again disappointed to see that the clientele isn’t like what he remembered. Instead of family’s camping, the place is overrun with college kids drinking and using all types of electronic devices. Richard does what any good father would do, and he bans phone usage from his own family.
That night at the campfire, one of the college kids tells the story of the Jersey Devil, the local urban legend that is rumored to still be haunting The Barrens. After scaring the crap out of his young son, Richard flips out on the college kids. The next morning, Richard decides to take his family off the beaten path and camp deeper into the woods. However along the way, the family stumbles upon an animal torn to shreds, an abandoned campsite, and the body of one of the college students. Meanwhile Richard begins to start flipping out on everybody. Has the Jersey Devil returned to claim new victims, or is Richard losing his mind?
The Barrens is a movie suffering from multiple personality disorder. It can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a psychological thriller or a creature feature. While the mystery is originally intriguing, it’s lack of direction causes the final payout to feel cheap and rushed. It’s too bad, because I would consider myself a fan of director Darren Lynn Bousman’s work, but the Barrens just didn’t click with me. By the time the movie was over, it felt forgettable and very blah.
I do have to commend Bousman on the look of The Barrens. He does a good job making the woods feel as isolated and creepy as they would be to city folk (like myself). Also the blood and gore effects used are as usual extremely well done, especially the animal carcasses. It would also be wrong to not commend Stephen Moyer on a fantastic job carrying the bulk of the film squarely on his shoulders. While the rest of his family is a stereotypical horror movie family (2nd wife, mouthy teenage daughter, and a way too sweet young son) his portrayal of Richard is the only one to truly stand out.
I’m not going to lie, you could do worse than The Barrens, but you could also do a lot better. The tale of the Jersey Devil can’t decide exactly what type of movie it wants to be, and falls short of succeeding as both a psychological thriller or a creature feature.