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A man takes his family on a camping trip and becomes convinced they are being stalked by the legendary monster of the New Jersey Pine Barrens: the Jersey Devil.
For more about The Barrens and the The Barrens Blu-ray release, see the The Barrens Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Erik Knudsen
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
» See full cast & crew
The Barrens Blu-ray Review
Not so barren but not as fertile as it might have been.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 9, 2012
The monster is you.
Saw II, III, and IV Director Darren Lynn Bousman's The Barrens splices together a hodgepodge of Horror/Terror elements that come so close to gelling into a single, compelling narrative, but the picture ultimately ends up as a slightly confused mad scientist concoction that bubbles over the sides and runs together in a soupy, undefined collection of pieces that end up making a big mess rather than a big hit. The Barrens throws elements of the Monster movie, the Psychological drama, and patchwork family elements and dynamics into the mixing bowl. It's not clear what the end product was intended to be, but audiences get a whole lot of all of that in a movie that, perhaps, was meant to reflect something far out of the cinema ordinary and more reflective of an imaginary real-life scenario. Unfortunately, the movie goes so far astray from convention that it's sometimes unrecognizable in its current form and certainly never quite as lean and precise as it might have been and the fascinating core story demands.
Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer, True Blood) spent much of his youth camping in the Pine Barrens with his father. Now, he's a father of two and is taking his family to The Barrens for the first time, and with reason: he's to spread his late father's ashes in the river. Unfortunately, his patchwork family isn't so thrilled to go. His daughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald) doesn't want to surrender her electronics or be away from her best friend. She's particularly not keen on spending the time with her stepmother Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) whom she cannot accept as a replacement for her late biological mother. Richard's son Danny (Peter DaCunha) has lost interest in the trip, too; he'd rather remain home and keep watch for the lost family dog. But in the car and to The Barrens they go nonetheless. Before arriving, they find a badly mutilated animal on the road, a harbinger of the terrible things to come. The communal campgrounds don't sit well with Richard, and when Sadie befriends a boy (Erik Knudsen) who frightens Danny with the campfire story of "The Jersey Devil," the family moves to an alternate campsite. Little do they know that violence, uncertainty, paranoia, difficult challenges, and unimaginable truths await.
The Barrens comes packed to the limits of its 16mm body with fascinating dynamics and admirable approaches towards tired genre elements. It's an oftentimes fascinating amalgamation that never finds a fast, intense narrative through the combination of all of its pieces. The picture strives to not only bring family dynamics, psychological terror, and creature feature attributes to the table but to also mold them into a uniquely novel single work. The movie's shortcoming comes in its inability to completely intermix all of those pieces. They all feel like a part of the story but not always integral parts necessary in telling the core tale. The movie works better when audiences analyze its pieces individually, in studying the family structure that's probably the film's single most tired attribute, the mental grind and emotional upheaval experienced by the main character, and the monster elements that may or may not be more than coincidental happenings joining with an overactive imagination, local legend, and mental and emotional trauma. It's that latter string of questions that see The Barrens at its best. Is the monster a monster or is the monster the man? Is it the product of a campfire story gone terribly wrong, the workings of a depraved mind manifest in the physical, or is there really a slimy, bloody creature on the loose? The Barrens works hard to establish itself as the definitive "local legend"/"monster movie;" the seeds are planted but the overgrowth of interesting but fairly vacant and, at times, needless ancillary pieces keep the focus off the picture's single best attribute and prevent a full, unobstructed blooming of what might have been a fantastic scary story.
The Barrens does display some other areas of strength. The picture is slow to develop but also more than capable of using that time to nicely develop its characters -- even if most of them don't really go all that far from stock -- and construct a heavy, at times frightening, and oftentimes engaging and realistic atmosphere. The movie doesn't simply rely on its setting to conjure up scares but it rather makes fine use of dramatic mood; the woodland locale enhances the narrative but the scares are shaped psychologically rather than visually, at least for a good bit of the film. The Barrens intermixes old fashioned campsite scares with nerve-wracking psychological tension and even a bit of blood and guts, the latter of which is largely limited to mutilated animals but also some frightening visuals of bloody human wounds and remains. The acting is adequate; the stock characters are not performed beyond the limits of the characters, but Stephen Moyer does find another gear in his slow descent into madness and as the picture leaves audiences wondering what his role may or may not be in the surrounding death and terror that has coincided with his and his family's arrival at The Barrens.
The Barrens Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Barrens' 16mm photography translates very well to Blu-ray. No doubt there's a touch of softness about the image, but Anchor Bay's transfer captures the essence of the photography remarkably well. Details aren't rightly described as absolutely crisp and perfectly defined, but the image captures the textures of clothes, faces, and the woodland surroundings as well as the photography allows. Grain retention aids in establishing a good-looking film-like texturing. Additionally, colors favor a slightly cold and dim appearance. Even the brightest shades of red and orange don't exactly explode from the screen, but there's an impressive balance evident throughout, particularly across all the greens and browns seen throughout the film. Flesh tones are fairly accurate, though blacks gravitate towards a washed-out shade. Otherwise, no complaints here; this is a tip-top transfer from Anchor Bay and a gorgeous example of 16mm photography.
The Barrens Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Barrens contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The presentation excels throughout. Gentle woodland ambience impresses in its clarity, spacing, and immersion capabilities. Music is nicely spaced and plays with top-notch clarity. It's often heavy and deep and plays with just the right amount of surround support. There's some excellent, full-bodied supportive sound effects, too. Whether the din of a busy campground, fluttering birds maneuvering through the stage, or some of the darker sounds of horror, the track offers a nice array of muscular effects that, like the other elements, enjoy precision spacing and an immersive sensation. Even rainfall effects heard in chapter seven pelt the soundstage with a saturating sensation. Dialogue is crisp and even, remaining focused around the center speaker. This is a high yield, very immersive and satisfying presentation that suits the movie very well.
The Barrens Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Barrens contains an audio commentary and a deleted scene.
The Barrens Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's a fantastic movie buried deep within The Barrens. Writer/Director Darren Lynn Bousman has done a fine job of unearthing much of it, but he's included a little too much, emphasizing secondary elements that sometimes seem to take the focus away from the movie's strengths and only confuse rather than enhance its go-to attributes. Within The Barrens is the definitive campfire tale sort of movie, intermixing uncertainty with fear and psychological drama alongside Horror movie trauma. But the focus never quite remains on track, leaving the movie a little more muddled than necessary and not quite as good as it might should have been. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of The Barrens features superb video and audio. However, the supplements are a bit on the thin side. Though it's not a perfect movie, The Barrens is worth a watch and this disc is easily worthy of a rental. Fans can purchase without worry.
The Barrens Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Barrens Blu-ray - August 20, 2012
Anchor Bay Entertainment will release a combo pack edition of director Darren Lynn Bousman's horror thriller The Barrens (2012), starring Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner and Erik Knudsen. The release will be avialable for purchase on October 9th.
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