Growing up in the slasher boom of the 1980s (well, I was born in 1980, the same month the original Friday the 13th came out) I was obsessed with VHS and catching any and every horror flick I could see (with or without my parent’s permission). Most of those films, I was only able to see via my 13 inch black and white TV on one of the five channels I had, so of course they were cut to shreds like I imagined all those victims in those films were). Slasher movies were my favorite though. There was something about the whole thrill of the hunt, an original killer, inventive kills and characters I actually cared about and didn’t want to die (which is a rarity in today’s slasher films). I even like bad slasher movies, with nonsensical plots and wacky characters.
Which brings us to the new slasher movie The Barn, written and directed by Justin Seaman. I always get worried when films try to hark back to a decade long ago, and The Barn is an 80s throwback. And it is in the best way possible. Not since Wes Craven’s Scream did I enjoy a slasher movie the way I enjoyed The Barn. It’s a fine line when nostalgia and film get mixed together. A lot of times you get a messy slog, and then sometimes you get a gem in the rough, like Jason Eisner’s Hobo With a Shotgun and the films of Astron-6. The Barn feels completely at home next to those films.
But you want to know the plot, right? It’s pretty simple. Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and Josh (Will Stout) are best friends and are obsessed with Halloween. Especially Sam, who has his own spooky haunted attraction at his house, where he scares kids who don’t try at Halloween. He screws up and scares the uptight Ms. Barnhart (queen of B-movies Linnea Quigley), who then make sure his father punishes him on Halloween. He and Josh have to go a few towns over and pick up food for the church.
In order to stick it to her, he decides that the two of them and their friends Michelle (Lexi Dripps), Nikki (Nikki Darling), Chris (Cortland Woodard) and Russell (Nickolaus Joshua) are going to instead trick or treat and get tons of candy and give that to the food drive instead. And while they’re at it, they’re going to stop over at the Halloween night concert by their favorite metal band. But first, they go to a small town to get the candy. And that’s when they see The Barn.
Sam believes in the mythology of Halloween and one story that spooks even him to this day was the story about The Barn. It tells the tale of three evil entities: The Boogeyman, Hollow Jack and Candy Corn Scarecrow. Being from hell, they take as many souls as they can back there before the strike of midnight. And unknown to them, when they knock and say trick or treat, the devil spawn are awakened and have come back to cause havoc and kill as many as they can before midnight. Sam has to think of a plan using all the skills he’s learned from being obsessed with Halloween and fight back the evil trying to kill both his friends and everyone else in the town.
The Barn achieves that sweet spot for me with a great horror film. It made me want to watch it again right after I checked it out. So I did. And then I watched it again a week later with my girlfriend because I couldn’t stop raving about it. And it all comes down to a few things that takes a good film and makes it re-watchable for me. Characters I like and I really liked the main characters Sam and Josh. Mitchell Musolino has this charisma about him and I couldn’t pin it down, but I finally came to the conclusion that he reminds me of a young Jason Lee. And I’m talking about Kevin Smith’s Mallrats Jason Lee, the coolest cocky character you can’t help but cheer on. But the big surprise was his friend Josh, played by Will Stout. I really enjoyed his character, who is dealing with a loss of faith from the death of his father who was a preacher, so he has stopped believing in god and the devil as well. It’s actually an interesting touch for a horror script, and it’s played extremely well by Stout. I can’t wait to see the two of them in future films, sooner rather than later.
The other thing that works right from the start is the mythology of the world. We see the trio of killers in the past killing someone in the intro scene and then flash forward to the ‘present’ day of 1989. When they are re-awakened, we get the complete reveal of the killers and they are fantastic. Especially Hollow Jack, who I enjoyed the most primarily because of his design and his methods of killing people. The practical special effects are also a welcome change and I tend to champion whenever any filmmaker goes that route.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack. Rocky Gray has put together a soundtrack that has just the right amount of synthy goodness mixed together with some good old rock and roll. I think I saw the ads for the soundtrack before I knew the film actually existed and listened to a bit of it months ago. Then finding out it actually belonged to a film was a great thing to hear and now I have to seek out the vinyl for it pronto, which is available at Lunaris Records.
Justin M. Seaman has made one of my favorite films this year already. The Barn is a breath of fresh air in the horror genre and I can’t wait to keep spreading the love for this film. You can buy the film direct from Nevermore Productions here and also pick up some other goodies, like The Barn Board Game, posters, the VHS version, The Barn video game (even on an NES cartridge and a Lost Mysteries duo of prints by one of my favorite artists, IBTrav Designs (sad I missed out on those Mego Style action figures).