Can you remember walking videostore aisles and scanning the top shelves for the cool-looking Rated-R horror covers. If so, The Barn may be just the movie for you. A B-film that’s garnered a lot of love at smaller genre film festivals, Justin M. Seaman’s homage to VHS horror films was finally released yesterday on most streaming platforms.
Sam and Josh are high school seniors and best friends who love all things Halloween. Facing pressures to ‘grow up’, the friends decide to have one last Halloween blast on ‘Devil’s Night’. On their way to a concert, Sam and Josh meet up with some friends and take a detour to an abandoned barn. Local legend says that three Halloween demons reside inside. The demons – Candycorn Scarecrow, The Boogeyman, and Hallowed Jack – have slept beneath the barn for year. But the teens foolishly knock on the ‘barn’ doors and say Trick-or-Treat three times, awakening the legendary evil again.
DIY Low-Budget 80’s Horror
Writer and director Justin Seaman lovingly re-creates all of the aesthetics of low-budget 80’s VHS horror films.
Writer and director Justin Seaman lovingly re-creates all of the aesthetics of low-budget 80’s VHS horror films. Everything from the studio logos to the synth music score feels like the 1980’s. It’s an aesthetic and vibe that may remind older horror fans of grade school sleepovers. You always watched those cheap horror films that were still left on the video store shelf later in the evening. The picture quality is grainy and a few scenes looks choppily edited to with VHS quality sound. Seaman clearly has an affection for the decade and, as a result, The Barn feels like a time capsule.
Of course, The Barn doesn’t just look like a low budget horror film, it is a low-budget horror film. This is the classic definition of DIY filmmaking. Fortunately, Seaman knows what he can and can’t do with his budget. Most importantly, Seaman’ story is clearly intended to be a little tongue-in-cheek thereby aligning it well with his limited budget. Truth be told, the creature effects are also a bit of a mixed bag and unlikely to elicit any real scares. But the makeup and visual effects teams pull off some impressive moments on their shoestring budget. Additionally, the ‘Halloween Hootenanny’ massacre scene is a triumph of what a little innovation can accomplish on a tiny budget. It’s a bloody fun horror moment. Though it never reaches the dizzying heights of an Evil Dead film or Deathgasm, it still registers as a highlight.
Don’t Expect Great Performances
Not surprisingly, the acting is pretty stilted. Sam and Josh, played by Mitchell Mussolini and Will Stout, are a little stiff. Fortunately, they have just enough charisma to pass off as believable. Sam’s love for Halloween tradition and the screenplay’s attention to their friendship adds some unexpected depth. Not much is expected from the rest of the cast. Lexi Dripps’ ‘Michelle’ is pretty much wasted as the love interest. No one else in the cast delivers a performance that rises above ‘wooden’.
Seaman Spins a Fun Halloween Story
If The Barn has an appeal aside from it’s 80’s vibe, it’s the fun Halloween mythology Seaman weaves into his movie. Much of the humour and laughable dialogue is unintentional. In addition, The Barn’s yarn about its demons feels somewhat convoluted. Yet in spite of these strikes, there’s an amicable tone that abounds throughout the movie. At its heart, The Barn embraces the childhood love for everything about Halloween. Even with budgetary limitations, the climax is rousing and fun. It works in large part because you believe in Sam and Josh’s friendship.
Hokey Halloween Fun
The Barn is an ultra-low budget, DIY horror film that wears its love for all things 80’s and Halloween on its sleeve. Not everyone is going to appreciate Seaman’s VHS aesthetics; I wouldn’t recommend this film to someone without knowing their preferences. But for horror fans who love 1980’s sensibilities, or just generally appreciate cheesy films, The Barn might just be an ideal ‘sleepover’ movie.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-