Plus after you get done reading all these words, there’s a treat at the end!
Hey everybody — as you all know, we’re getting closer to peak Spooky Season 2021 here with JBB’s surprise special featuring a couple of early episodes of The Walking Dead, and with Halloween just a day away, the content of the flicks we’re checking out has to have something to do with the holiday or else I’m not doing this right.
And speaking of doing it right, if you are an indy filmmaker and want your stuff checked out on this very website, please use the contact form on this page to submit your flicks. The last three weeks all have been reviews of flicks given directly to us, and we’d like to make a habit of that rather than pulling stuff from my ridiculously growing physical media collection. The offer made at the end of One Cut of the Dead still stands. We want to see your movie, but you have to let us know it exists!
We’re taking a look at 2016’s indy horror flick The Barn an almost-college kid named Sam (Mitchell Musolino) who takes his Halloweening really, really seriously and a bunch of his pals run afoul of a trio of demons encroached around a portal to Hell when all they wanted to do was go to a black metal concert in Justin M. Seaman’s horror feature debut.
Wait a sec, you ask — who’s Justin Seaman? Well, if you were at the Jamboree this past summer on Friday and in the presentation area trying to get your learning on right before the biblical monsoon hit, he was one of the presenters at the independent filmmaking classes. Based out of Pennsylvania and surrounding states, he’s the first guy I met my ownself at the Jamboree, a real DIY guy, a bona-fide Close Personal Friend of the Mutant Family, and has directed Joe Bob in Cryptids, an anthology straight out of Coast-to-Coast A.M. that’s coming out sooner rather than later, AND both JBB and Darcy in the now-in-post-production sequel to this flick, the aptly named The Barn, Part II.
So in anticipation of Part Two-o, we’re throwing it back to the 2016 original.
The Barn starts out, in classic slasher fashion, by flashing back to 1959 where a couple of kids from rural Wheary Falls go to a big red barn with a jack o’ lantern outside of it — the EXACT place where a preacher told em not to go trick-or-treating — and the mischievous girl whose whole idea it was to defy the minister and go there gets a pickaxe in her skull for her trouble. There’s your prologue.
Then, 30 years later, we meet late-stage high schoolers Sam Daniels and his pal Josh (Will Stout) who live a town or two over from where the opening scene happened and have decked out a garage as a scare attraction and are raising heck among the littler kids, by telling a legacy tale about these three demons named the Boogeyman, Hollow Jack and Candy Corn Scarecrow who hang out near a barn, then get summoned when folks knock on the door and say “trick or treat” and then slaughter the summoners so they can chuck their victims’ meat down a barbecue pit in the barn’s basement so the Devil can slow-roast it on Halloween night for the annual Satanic Barbecue and Underworld Pig Roast that happens once a year and includes the usual hooded followers in black cloaks who may or may not be wearing anything underneath.
Such a tale (they don’t know about the Satan’s Barbecue part until the end) doesn’t sit well with the town busybody and chairwoman of the Holier-Than-Thou Society Ms. Barnhart (friend of the Last Drive-In Linnea Quigley), and she gets Sam in trouble with his Dad to the point of where instead of going out on Halloween night to trick-or-treat, he has to do a canned-food drive at the behest of Barnhart.
This is basically a near-mortal wound to Sam, who grew up on the spooky yarns concocted by his miner grandfather and created his own set of rules to Halloween by, to wit:
— “The only point to dress to scare is to fool whatever’s out there into thinking we’re one of them.“
— “Candy, the treat, is an offering. Egging houses is a trick, causing mischief to those who don’t make an offering.”
— Partying is a way to celebratie the harvest, sometimes involving human sacrifice.
— “Never trick the treat. You never break a deal in Halloween because it’s the one night the devil can come for you.”
But rather than outright compliance with the punishment Barnhart suggest and his dad advocates, Sam and Josh see a segment from TV veejay Dr. Rock (played by proto-Jason Ari Lehman) where they announce that metal band Demon Inferno is going to play a midnight show on Halloween. They gather a bunch of friends, take a wrong turn, a la Last House on the Left, end up on a certain farm property on the outskirts of Wheary Falls, now known as Deathville, get drunk and play Truth or Dare.
You’ll never guess what happens after Sam is dared by his friends to knock on the door of the nearby barn three times and say, “Trick or Treat,” against the legend his grandfather told him… which brings us to:
• Best Use of a Vintage Ford Van: Chris uses it for a makeout session at the drive-in with Nikki, stores the lawn-care equipment necessary for the final battle between the former lawn-care professionals and the demons and creatures in Satan’s servitude, and it actually starts up when Michelle evacuates the premises.
• Best Quote: “I watched him eat a face burger made out of Russell’s head!”
• Best Use of Chekhov’s Lawnmower: Seaman has a shot early in the gang’s entrance into the barn of an old push mower. You’re dang right that it gets used as an offensive weapon in the third act of the flick.
• Best Senseless Waste of a Human Life (and Pumpkins): George Haywood (David Hampton) lives his life making like Billy Corgan and smashing pumpkins all over the place after surviving the trauma of the opening scene. He has a great expositional rant to our two heroes at the Hootenanny: “Smashing the pumpkins is the best way to keep those goddamn demons from coming into town,” and “Send those motherf——— back to Hell.”
• Best Throwback Horror References: Take your pick. Maybe it’s the obstructing vines, like in Evil Dead. Maybe it’s the way the Boogeyman demon had a Freddy Krueger reference with his claws as he was attacking the van. Maybe it was the Lucio Fulci eyeball gouge tease during Sam’s fight with the Boogeyman, but probably it’s how Nikki got an arm cut off and then the Cannibal Holocaust impalement treatment.
• Best Use of Mass Carnage to Ruin a Hootenanny: The demons start killing folks at the hootenanny, including the band, stabbing them with cornstalks, impaling them with pickaxes, crushing skulls. Kind of like the prom scene in Carrie as mass carnage goes, but this one has more golds, browns and oranges rather than pig’s blood red as befitting the autumn. And, to be fair, a lot of the Hootenanny victims had pounded so much apple cider and doughnuts that they were in no shape to run away if they could cause that’s how a hootenanny works.
• Best Noble Intentions: Sam, who says, “I want to be remembered for doing the right thing.” and, “If I get out of here alive, I don’t think I’m going to go trick-or-treating again” and proceeds with his pal to use garden implements to attack the Source of All That is Evil that’s emerging from the world’s most Satanic barbecue pit in the great final shot of this flick.
Great scenery, sound effects and an interlude where there’s a bunch of random folks getting turned into demon chow make The Barn one to get in your Halloween rotation ASAP.
Close to four stars, but there was a little bit of distracting computer animation with an overuse of some crackling lightning bolt effects and green splatter effects and a clunky couple of beats in the showdown with the Satanic priest that I bet Justin and co. would do over if given the chance. Plus, we gotta give him something to shoot for as he wraps up The Barn, Part II and Cryptids, which we eagerly await, for obvious reasons. I mentioned JBB’s in em both, right? If not, check out below for the more skeptical amongst the Mutant Family.
The Barn gets three and a half stars, with an eye on future greatness…
And here’s the special Halloween treat, exclusively for readers of the JBB website …
Justin shot me an email a couple days ago telling me that, in the spirit of the season, he had a treat for Last Drive-In fans. So below are some production photos direct from the director from when Joe Bob and Darcy were on set filming their parts for the coming-soon sequel — The Barn Part II. We hope you like em!
And if you liked those, here’s the trailer for the sequel:
And, finally, if you liked EVERYTHING you saw, preorder The Barn II here.
Happy Halloween! Keep an eye out on Facebook for my review of The Walking Dead special in the next Last Call blog AND keep an eye on Facebook where you, the reader, may choose the fate of your humble reviewer’s eyeballs in November.