Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie MacDonald
Tag line: "The terrifying legend of the Jersey Devil is alive"
Trivia: A majority of the scenes were done in a single take
Every summer, I take the family to the Jersey Shore for a week, and to get there I first have to drive through a sizable portion of the Pine Barrens, a heavily wooded area that covers well over a million acres of Southern New Jersey. Along with its endless supply of fresh water, the Pine Barrens is also the alleged home of a creature known as the Jersey Devil, a monstrous being that’s been sighted in the area time and again since 1735 (the year it was supposedly "born"). The Barrens, a 2012 horror film, introduces us to Richard (Stephen Moyer), who believes that, as a child, he had a run-in with the Jersey Devil during one of the many fishing trips he and his father made to the area. Returning to the Barrens for a weekend camping trip with his wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner), daughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald) and young son Danny (Peter DaCunha), Richard becomes increasingly convinced that the creature is back, and is stalking his family. But has the beast truly returned, or is something else clouding Richrd's judgment?
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, The Barrens is as much a psychological thriller as it is a horror film, focusing on its main character as he struggles to figure out what’s going on around him. Stephen Moyer delivers an excellent performance as Richard, a man who, despite his failing health, is doing everything he can to keep his family safe, never realizing that he himself may be the very monster threatening their well-being. Over the course of the movie, Richard deteriorates before our eyes, both physically (we learn he suffered an injury several weeks earlier that, if left untreated, could prove fatal) and emotionally (his jealousy often gets the best of him. At one point, he catches Cynthia on her cell phone. After accusing her of talking with a male friend he’d forbidden her to contact, Richard grabs the phone and, in a fit of rage, tosses it into the surrounding woods). Moyer successfully conveys these changes in his character’s personality, taking what had been a loving husband and nurturing parent and turning him into something considerably more terrifying.
Yet, through it all, we’re reminded there may, in fact, be more going on than meets the eye. Starting with an early scene around a fire, where fellow camper Ryan (Erik Knudson) and his pals relate the legend of the Jersey Devil, we’re never quite sure if the events that follow are, indeed, the work of a mentally unstable Richard, or if someone (or something) much more sinister is to blame. There are times when we catch a glimpse of the creature (which, for a low-budget film, looks pretty good), but seeing as Richard is the only one who encounters it, we don’t know if its real or a figment of his imagination. The tension rises as Richard, hoping to escape the crowded campsite, leads his family deeper into the woods, where they come across an abandoned tent (which has been torn to shreds) and a dead dog tied to a tree. Clearly, something very bad happened here, and it’s to director Bousman’s credit that he keeps us guessing even after we think we have it all figured out.
An edgy, often frightening motion picture, The Barrens has assured that the next time I’m driving through South Jersey, I’ll move faster than I ever have before!