More often than not, modern horror films that attempt to pay homage to a certain cinematic point in the past fall short for various reasons, but writer/director Justin M. Seaman has triumphed with his monster/slasher hybrid The Barn. The film boast a truly authentic 1980s vibe but its success rests on the strength of its story, its interesting baddies, and its spirited performances more so than its attention to period detail.
Sam (Mitchell Musolino) is a young guy obsessed with Halloween; he even has his own strict set of rules about the holiday. On October 31, 1989, he hopes to have a memorable Halloween because it is his last one before he graduates high school. He and his friend Josh (Will Stout) decide to travel with a group of friends, including Sam’s crush Michelle (Lexi Dripps), to a rock concert in a nearby town. Along the way, the friends test out a local legend, knocking on a barn door three times while saying “Trick or treat” in an attempt to awaken demonic forces. Thinking they have failed, the group moves on, not realizing that they have in fact let loose three of the coolest looking and most ferocious entities to grace the screen in recent years: The Boogeyman, Hollow Jack, and The Candy Corn Scarecrow. The little town of Wheary Falls is about to experience its bloodiest night of terror in 30 years.
The Barn kicks off with an interesting backstory and establishes its ground rules quickly, making a blueprint that it follows successfully and that immerses viewers in its world. Justin M. Seaman has created fleshed-out characters with engaging story arcs that make us care about and root for them.
Something else that makes The Barn so impressive to me is that Justin M. Seaman attempts to recreate beloved elements of what made late-era drive-in and direct-to-video horror flicks work, infusing the proceedings with some dark humor but avoiding parody and, worse, camp, a problem to which many similar efforts fall victim. Occasional winks and nods pop up here and there, but they are done cleverly and rather subtly, rather than screaming for attention while laughing at themselves. The Barn gets its tones right, coming across as a valentine to eighties horror rather than a mere parroting or mocking of it.
All of the elements of The Barn work together beautifully as a cohesive organism. Zane Hershberger’s cinematography gives a professional, authentic feel to the action, Rocky Gray and Jason English provide a driving score that fits perfectly, the set designs are fantastic, and the special effects, visual effects, and makeup crews did phenomenal work. Gore galore is on gruesome display and the effects are outstanding. The movie’s cast does a bang-up job, with everyone putting their hearts into their roles and making their characters feel believable.
Besides all of the professionalism involved in creating The Barn, the film has another element that helps make it such a winner: it’s fun. I had an absolute blast watching the film. It brought a smile to my face many times, which is an important measure of success for my favorite horror movies – and The Barn was just that, one of my top 10 favorite fright films of 2016.
The Barn is a true independent feature film; you can order it on DVD or VHS (Yes, collectors, you read that correctly!) at http://thebarnmerch.com/, along with some very cool retro toys (including action figures and Wrestling Buddies-style pillow fighters), games (board and video), and soundtracks (on CD, vinyl, and cassette, no less) related to the movie. Independent releases like this need to be supported, and The Barn deserves all of the support it can get so that filmmaker Justin M. Seaman can amaze us with a sophomore feature.
The Barn: (4.5 / 5)