All of that said, The Barrens surprises somewhat I mean, it is a routine film and there is little that surprises about it, but it surprises because it is something so completely different from Darren Lynn Bousman. Excepting the science-fiction musical Repo, all of Bousmans other work has been horror that lacks any subtlety and usually makes a direct beeline for shock effect as quickly as possible. By contrast, The Barrens is a model of restraint. Apart from the occasional gored body supposedly killed by the Jersey Devil, it is focused on character-driven drama. It is Bousman in a very controlled state of mind and showing far more restraint than he has in all of his other films put together.
Bousman makes The Barrens into a Lewtonian drama after Val Lewton, the producer of films like Cat People (1942) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943) where you could never be sure whether the supernatural was real or in its characters imaginations. A state of ambiguity runs through throughout The Barrens as to whether there is a Jersey Devil attacking people in the woods or whether Stephen Moyer had received a bite from a rabid dog and is suffering from paranoia and hallucinations.
Of course, the downside of all this is that with Bousman backpedalling the out-and-out shock-horror element, the film is quiet and uneventful. It never gains its effect until Bousman has Stephen Moyer go off the rails in the latter parts. And in the end, Bousmans hovering around the question of the reality of the Jersey Devil is not a particularly cleverly or well achieved state of ambiguity. The eventual resolution ends up being a rather indifferent, not to mention a predictable, one.
The film stars British actor Stephen Moyer who rose to prominence and a certain sex symbol status after being cast as the vampire Bill Compton on tvs True Blood (2008-14). Although here, Moyer, who also takes a co-producer credit on the film, plays at opposite remove to that as someone unbalanced and not particularly likeable.