Director Darren Lynn Bousman is a highly underrated individual. After making a splash with the sequels Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006) and Saw IV (2007) he ventured off on his own to do the cult favorite Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008). This film was not particularly financially successful but it did prove to horror fans that he was a lover of the horror film. His next couple films had it rough with the remake of Mother’s Day (2010), which sat on a studio shelf waiting for release, and 11-11-11: The Prophecy (2011), which had its own problems of being distributed by a smaller company than Bousman’s other films. Despite the problems of Bousman’s post-Saw films he has not ceased to amaze as a horror director to continue to look out for especially in terms of one of his latest films The Barrens (2012), which deals with the legend of the Jersey Devil in a unique and captivating new way.
Like 11-11-11: The Prophecy, Bousman handles both writing and directing duties and this film is his most accomplished film yet. The film concerns Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) who takes his wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) and their daughter and young son camping for two reasons. Richard wants to spend some quality time with his family and he wants to dispose of his father’s ashes in the Pine Barrens in a spot where he and his father used to visit when he was a child. The moment he and his family reach camp, Richard is uneasy not only because there has been a murder in the area allegedly by a bear but also from the fact that much has changed since the last time he went camping. Modern technology and the plethora of college students has taken a quiet camping trip and turned it into a never ending weekend party. Richard, wanting to get away from civilization to be with his family, decides to go against the local forest ranger’s advice and delve deeper into the wilderness. Apprehensive at first, Cynthia begins to notice a change in her husband that she can’t decide whether it’s due to the stress of disposing of his father’s ashes or something more sinister as Richard begins to think he is seeing glimpses of the Jersey Devil within every menacing shadow.
A simply camping trip gets even more dangerous when Cynthia realizes that Richard may be ill and getting worse by the minute and he may not only be a dangerous to himself and his family but also to other campers who also seem to be going missing. Or is it really the Jersey Devil come to feast upon them all?
Bousman does a great job crafting a psychological thriller but it is truly held together by Moyer and Kirshner. Moyer does an excellent job creating a sympathetic Richard even when the audience is trying to decide if he is truly ill or just plain crazy. Bousman takes a very simple location and premise of the woods (used way too often in most other independent horror films) and crafts an edge of your seat thriller that does not play down to the audience. This is also not just a psychological thriller as Bousman adds enough of the mythology behind the Jersey Devil to make this a worthy addition to other Jersey Devil films.
This is a great film to represent the best that Bousman has to offer and just demonstrates the level of commitment that he has to the genre and that he continues to be a director whose work is worth watching out for.