Oct 25, 2019

THE BARN (2016)

Halloween is the top day of the year for me. And when a filmmaker sets out to not just set his or her story on Halloween, but make Halloween a driving part of the story, looking back to its many myths and origins for its conflict, well, you’ve got my attention. And I want nothing more than for these filmmakers to succeed, so I may add it to my yearly pile of must-watch October viewing.

Strictly judged on this criterion, writer/director Justin Seaman succeeds.

The Barn, the newest in a long line of throwback slasher films, has its heart in the right place, which allows it to transcend the problems that most low-budget filmmaking inevitably displays. Featuring bit roles for ‘80s horror icons Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) and Ari Lehman (Young Jason from the original Friday the 13th as a hilariously strange television horror-host), The Barn takes place on Halloween night, 1989, and feels every bit like it. After its excellent opening, which lays down the legend of Hallowed Jack, Candycorn Scarecrow, and the Boogeyman (aka the Miner), we cut to “the present” and meet our usual group of kids who will get into kid hijinks and come face-to-face with an array of evil Halloween spirits.

If The Barn gets anything right, it’s the loyal devotion to Halloween. The first five minutes alone exude more October ambiance than all of Trick ‘r Treat, and the somewhat party store design of its movie maniacs easily call forth Conal Cochran’s trio of now-iconic masks from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. When the screen is filled with costumed kids, cornfields, pumpkin fields, and those mid-western small town surroundings ripped straight from images conjured by the abstract term “Americana,” Halloween permeates through every square inch of the screen.

The Barn also makes good on its promise to present itself as a long-lost ‘80s horror slasher, from its VHS-warped opening logo, to the artificial grain and cigarette burns, to the Carpenter-ish synth score by composer Rocky Gray – but most satisfying, the wonderfully rendered practical effects. Heads are crushed, throats are cut – more people bite the big one in The Barn than in the first three Myers Halloween films combined. And every single death is done physically, in-camera. There’s no amateurish Final Cut Pro CGI to offend the eye. The last thing you should be doing when seeing a head get ripped off is smiling big-time, but damn it, the gruesome exploits of The Barn make you smile big-time.

Where The Barn falters is where many other low-budget films made by inexperienced filmmakers tend to falter. None of the performances are particularly note-worthy, with the few appearances of adult actors (including Linnea Quigley) coming off less convincing than that of their younger counterparts. (None of the cast seem to be teen-aged in reality, but they at least look the part, which is another plus.) This, along with the occasional overwrought line of dialogue, a lack of confidence behind the camera (some quick action shots don’t provide a clear picture of what’s going on), and some sequences of loose editing are what keep The Barn from being truly great.

Still, during weak performances or eye-rolling dialogue, what continues to keep The Barn powering through and overcoming these obstacles is its intent on being a fun and clever film and loyal to the holiday its honoring. It wants to be more than just another low-budget horror film, which by now feels like a rite of passage for any burgeoning filmmaker. Everyone involved with The Barn really, really worked hard, and that – above all else – comes across in every frame. And that’s what makes it consistently watchable.

The Barn may not stand toe-to-toe with its Halloween-inspired brethren, but it’s a worthy addition to the sub-genre and a more-than-welcome guest at the yearly Halloween party. With more money and resources, I am eager to see what writer/director Justin Seaman concocts next. I say check it out, and if you like what you see, throw some money toward the film crew as they embark on--you guessed it--The Barn 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment