If you can remember walking the aisles of a video store and scanning the top shelves for the cool-looking Rated-R horror covers, 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’ and start taking more responsibilities, 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 where legend says that three Halloween demons reside. The demons – Candycorn Scarecrow, The Boogeyman, and Hallowed Jack – are awakened from their slumber when the teens foolishly knock on the ‘barn’ doors and say Trick-or-Treat three times.
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 sleepovers and the kind of 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 with VHS quality sound. Seaman clearly has an affection for the decade and 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 the limited budget. The creature effects are 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. 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 that while never reaching the dizzying heights of an Evil Dead film or Deathgasm still registers as a highlight.
Don’t Expect Great Performances
Not surprisingly, the acting performances are pretty stilted. Sam and Josh, played by Mitchell Mussolini and Will Stout, are a little stiff but have 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 to what is a B-film. 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 that Seaman builds into his film. Much of the humour and laughable dialogue is unintentional. In addition, the mythology around the The Barn’s demons is 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 that still kicks around inside a lot of us. Even with a lot of limitations imposed by its low budget, the climax is rousing and fun, working in large part because you believe in the friendship between Sam and Josh.
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-