Friday, January 20, 2017

Halloween Monster Crash: The Barn (2016)

The Barn (2016)
Rating: ***
Starring: Mitchell Musolino, Will Stout, Lexi Dripps

Three demonic killers. Two unlikely heroes. One town to save from eternal damnation. Exciting? Could be.

Opening in 1959 Halloween, at the small town of Wheary Falls, we watch as a pastor gives his good blessings to his young mass-goers before they go trick-or-treating, warning them that a certain barn not too far from town is off limits. Naturally, one of the kids blows this warning off and, encountering the sinister forces that reside in said barn, pays the grave price of getting a pickaxe buried into her head.

Thirty years later at the neighboring town of Helen's Valley, bestfriends Sam and Joshua are two fun-loving teenage pranksters who, after being scolded by their town's church head and Sam's father for a Mischief Night gag-gone-wrong, are starting to dawn on the inevitable fact that their years of being immature delinquents are numbered once high school ends. Thinking they should end their last Halloween with a bang, Sam and Josh decided to attend a rock concert a couple of towns over the following night, as well as have some fun trick-or-treating for some sweets along the way.

Inviting a few friends to tag along, the duo's trip makes a momentary stop at Wheary Falls where Sam's expertise on all Halloween related easily recognizes our infamous barn. In light of the holiday and to test if the legends are true, the group makes a fatal mistake of beckoning the three demons, unleashing them from hell to murder and devour their unsuspecting victims once again.

Shot to resemble a late 80s horror movie, The Barn certainly captures the same nostalgic low-budget affair that granted enough cheese and grue to keep fans of vintage horror satisfied, if not bumping into a few issues here and there.

The first hour of the film bleeds pure slasher-monster hybriding, with your typical kids splitting up and screwing with each other, leading to dumb choices and sex scenes paid gravely with a sharp tool down their gullets. Perhaps the only deviation that made The Barn stand out for me is that it spent enough of its running time building around our two teenage heroes with as much charm as any awkwardly geeky protagonist in a cheesy horror flick, with a side of religious crisis, low-key coming-of-age babble and a nerdy look into Halloween as a holiday which can be a hit-or-miss. Actors Mitchell Musolino and Will Stout plays Sam and Josh respectively in a style that comes in between fair and wooden, but their characterization and scripting work well with the tone of the movie so their presence and interaction with the rest of the cast (who a few tried to be more than two-dimensional in terms of scripting) were a decent watch even after the monsters finally come out.

And speaking of monsters, the slasher elements kick in after a third into the film and for a while, I enjoyed what I was seeing. By doing a childish ritual involving three knocks and a rhyme during Halloween, the titular barn turns into a portal between Hell and Earth, unleashing a trio of demons who each comes with their own unique lore: The Boogeyman is a ghoulish miner armed with iron fingernails and a mean pickaxe that he also uses to tunnel from Hell and back, Hallowed Jack is a pumpkin-headed axe-wielding creature that can revive itself by possessing jack-o-lanterns, and The Candycorn Scarecrow is a living husk man with razor sharp candy corn for teeth. I love how each of these killers look so different from one another and how whenever they are on screen, it bounds to deliver blood deaths and delicious gore, so much so that I am willing to believe that a good chunk of the budget went to the practical effects used for these manic moments. I do, sadly, wished there were more scenes in which our monsters get to kill off folks individually rather than as a group, as I felt their lore were disappointingly underused to the point that the film could have went on without it, in turn almost simplifying these villains into your everyday slashers that just so happen to have really cool designs. (and for some of them, immortal on a condition)

This, sadly, is only one of the two main concerns I have with The Barn and the other was the last half hour. After a wonderfully brutal (and wonkily scored) massacre that leaves a good bulk of the town's population dead and eaten, the film then tries to have our two protagonists properly act out their roles as heroes and fight the monsters they unknowingly unleashed. This should have been a pretty rad direction and I was hoping that it could lead to some decent fights and perhaps more bodycount, but the action involved wad as cheap as the budget could allow it, with some of the choreography being a chore to sit through and most of the monsters getting defeated way too easy for my taste. If that's not bad enough, there was also an unnecessary twist thrown in to give the film a more supernatural/religious taste, something that I felt slowed the film down and wasted too much time that could have been used on better scenes featuring our heroes, the monsters, or both.

Still, I can't really say that I hated the last 30 minutes or so of the film, since the last fight was as close to the kind of man-vs-monster brawl out I was wishing to see and the ending has this bittersweet touch to it. In fact, these little gripes didn't deter me much from enjoying The Barn, not with its likable leads, cool monster concepts and the generous amount of splattery grue. It's quality definitely shows the kind of monetary restrains the producers had to work with but, again, the tone, style and gimmick of the movie as a late 80s horror throwback managed to use these restrictions in the movie's advantage and I love overall results, more even when it managed to snag some fun cameos like Linnea Quigley (Of Night of the Demons (1988)) and Ari Lehman (the original Jason Voorhees). Perhaps not as much as I wanted to love it when I first saw its trailer, but with a better budget, The Barn could have been a greater movie for me.

The Barn was well worth my patience as a decent monster/slasher hybrid, a fair and fun addition to my ever growing collection of all things bodycounting. With the kind of ending we are given at the end, I do wish there will be more of Sam, Joshua and, of course, our three Halloween demons, but until then, I say give this one a shot should you ever get a chance! Perhaps you'll like it more than I did. Perhaps you already do!

1 girl gets a pickaxe to the head
1 male bashed to death with a rock hammer
1 female had an arm slashed off with a sickle, skewered
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
1 female clawed through the head
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male had his face flayed off
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male impaled with a pitchfork
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male stabbed on the eyes with drumsticks
1 male had his face crushed with a length of chord until eyes popped out
1 male hacked with a pickaxe
1 male drowned in a bob-an-apple barrel
1 female bitten on the neck
1 male scalded with boiling soup
1 male had his heart ripped out
1 male slashed on the gut, disemboweled
1 male clawed on the face
1 male knifed on the head
1 female had her head crushed
1 female decapitated
1 female gets broken glass thrown and pierce into her face
1 male had his neck broken
1 male stabbed on the eye with a stalk
A number of victims killed offcamera
1 male disemboweled with a knife
1 male found with his carved carved and hallowed
1 male stabbed with a crucifix dagger, caught in a burning barn
Total: 25+

(Note: Due to the supernatural nature of the demons, I left them out from the count)

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