27th Feb2014

‘Devil in the Woods’ (aka The Barrens) Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie MacDonald, Peter DaCunha, David Keeley, Erik Knudsen, J. Larose, Shamier Anderson, Max Topplin, Michael Copeman, Shawn Ashmore | Written and Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman


When I sat down to watch Devil in the Woods I suddenly had a case of déjà vu because I’ve seen this movie before.  I’m confused as to why The Barrens has been released as Devil in the Woods, probably the most confusing part is I’d watched it on VOD as The Barrens in the UK.  It’s only a small detail anyway, as Devil in the Woods (as I will call it for this review) is a film worth seeing.

When Richard Vinryard (Stephen Moyer) takes his family on a camping holiday looking to get away from civilisation he is less than impressed to find that the camping ground he used to visit as a child is now overrun by other holiday makers.  Taking his family deeper into the forest it’s not long before the cracks start showing, not only in Richard but in the family structure.  Warned that people have gone missing in the woods, and the possibility of bear attacks, the family soon find themselves put in danger.  Richard believes it is the work of the Jersey Devil, but is the truth closer to home?

Devil in the Woods is an interesting horror film but in its structure is fairly safe.  Pushing more into the territory of psychological horror and not being a creature feature the danger the family are in shows weaknesses in the group, and weaknesses in the Moyer character himself.  It’s strange to see him use his actual British accent after seeing him in True Blood but it’s also interesting that it can be used as a plot tool, creating distrust in him because of his “foreign” nature.  It’s not a case of xenophobia though, more a case of “you’re not from around here huh?”

Using an urban legend like the Jersey Devil is an interesting idea, and in Devil in the Woods I do like the fact that for the Vineyard family at least there is a question about how real the creature is.  At the start of the movie we see an attack that we assume is the same creature, but later in the movie we have to question this as misdirection.  The fact that the creature could be just part of Richard’s mental break is important to the plot, though the conclusion of the film comes up with an answer that should be a full stop, though you could still debate exactly what we are seeing.  I tend to think that the outcome is exactly what we see on the screen, no real brainwork is needed to work it out really.

As a horror film Devil in the Woods does work well.  It’s not exactly the most memorable of movies, you’ll remember that you’ve seen it before if you end up watching it again, but there is nothing really thought-provoking to keep you thinking about it for too long.  What it does give you though is an entertaining watch for a few hours, and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time.

If I was to recommend Devil in the Woods to anybody, of course the first people to think of are Stephen Moyer fans.  Don’t expect the same character as in True Blood, and to Moyer’s credit the character of Richard Vinyard is very different to Bill the vampire.  I’m sure his fans will like it though.  For horror fans I’m sure they may have that feel that there is nothing new to what they see, but they will welcome the gore and welcome the attempt to at least get your brain cells working.  Even though I’m slightly confused about why The Barrens has been renamed like this, to me this is something nothing major, especially when it let me take another look at a movie that really isn’t that bad.

Devil in the Woods is released on DVD this Monday, March 3rd.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

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