Runtime: 94 minutes
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Shawn Ashmore (“Frozen”) goes walking through the woods with his girlfriend. After seeing a disemboweled animal in the woods, he urges her to run. When she runs directly into a tree, he rushes to help her and as something approaches them, the screen goes black.
The film then jumps to Richard (Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”) and his family. Richard looks forward to taking his family camping for the weekend and getting away, but they don't feel the same way. Sadie (Allie MacDonald, “House at the End of the Street”) hates her step-mother Katherine (Mia Kirshner) and would rather hang out with her friends, while her little brother is concerned that his dog went missing a few days ago.
Richard remembers camping in The Barrens with his own father, and he wants to scatter his dad's ashes, but things don't go the way he planned. They come across a dead deer in the middle of the street, there are other campers all over the park, and Sadie keeps wandering off to hang out with another teenager Ryan (Erik Knudsen, “Saw II”). It doesn't help when the teens start telling horror stories, including one about the local Jersey Devil, which makes his son cry and nearly wet his pants. Once Richard starts suffering flashbacks and becoming weaker as people disappear in the woods, it becomes clear that he might have a connection to the mysterious creature that might roam The Barrens.
First off, “The Barrens” really isn't as terrible as some reviews claim. The real problem is that it doesn't seem to know where it wants to go. When Richard finally admits to his wife that he killed his son's dog after it attacked him, she wonders if the dog was rabid. That would make sense and explain why Richard seems to lose his mind for no reason. Before you can digest that theory, the film offers another suggestion for his craziness and another before finally revealing that it's exactly what you thought, and that ending isn't nearly as entertaining as the one in your mind.
MacDonald does a good job playing the annoying teenage girl who you just want to smack. She meets Ryan and just a few minutes later, she's ready to wander out into the woods with him. Even as people start disappearing, she's still more willing to spend time with him than her own step-mother or father. “The Barrens” has quite a few moments where you might find yourself wanting to smack many of the characters, especially when they willingly decide to venture deeper into the woods, knowing that something is wrong with their leader (Richard).
The ending of “The Barrens” is fairly ridiculous, and it plays just like a film you might see on the SyFy Channel. Before it reaches that level though, it does have some bright moments.