On Halloween, 1989, six high school seniors – Sam, Josh, Michelle, Chris, Nikki and Russell – head out from their small town of Helen’s Valley to see their favorite band (the wonderfully named Demon Inferno). On the way, they stop off in Wheary Falls and awaken three murderous, flesh-eating demons. To stop the demons, they may have to follow Sam’s roundly mocked Rules of Halloween.
The first thing that’s important to know about this film is that it is designed to be a throwback to 80s horror films. That’s evident from the setting to the music to the grainy film. If you watch the trailer, it’s perfectly clear what kind of movie this is. Because of that, I went in knowing exactly what kind of movie I was going to be watching.
I already started with the big stuff in the synopsis, but let’s flesh it out a little. The movie starts in Wheary Falls in 1959. (Both Wheary Falls and Helen’s Valley are fictional towns and we’re never told what state they are in. But, since the movie was filmed in Pennsylvania, let’s assume we’re dealing with two rural Pennsylvania towns.) We learn of the legend of The Barn: a nondescript red barn that holds three demons. If you knock on the door on Halloween and say, “Trick or treat,” the demons will emerge. It’s like Bloody Mary or Candyman, except you have to deal with three of them and they love eating flesh. They adore it.
Anyway, two kids sneak out after church to try it out. Sweet little Shirley gets a sharp instrument through her head, and George takes off running.
Let’s meet our demons – complete with their modus operandi – courtesy of Sam.
The Boogeyman: “Wants to crack your back, cut you into pieces to carry in his sack.”
Hallowed Jack: “Wants to carve out your head, slash you with his vines until you’re dead.”
The Candycorn Scarecrow: “If you get scared, don’t you cry, or The Candycorn Scarecrow will surely eat your eyes.”
The design of the demons was incredible. I was a particularly huge fan of the candles inside Hallowed Jack’s pumpkin head and the rotted candy corn teeth of The Candycorn Scarecrow, but they all looked great. It was a bit odd to feel nostalgia over something in a brand new movie, yet here we are.
Actually, that last statement could apply to this entire movie. I felt a massive wave of nostalgia for this entire movie.
We jump forward into 1989, when our six heroes find themselves in Wheary Falls on Halloween night. Once again the demons are awakened. Sam – our main character – has a set of rules that need to be followed on Halloween. He explains that these rules have been culled from a variety of traditions he had read about in books. He lays these out while sitting at a campfire outside The Barn, and, though his friends make fun of him at the time, we know they’re going to need these rules in order to survive.
Sam is a high school senior who is perceived to love Halloween a bit too much, both by the adults in his town and by his friends. To outsiders, it appears as though he has a hard time letting go of his childhood love of Halloween, but it’s more than that. He believes that Halloween traditions go deeper than just, “kids trick or treat because they want candy.” He believes that these traditions were put in place to protect us. He has taken these traditions and broken them down into 6 Halloween rules. He believes that each of these rules is a sort of contract that we must honor. If the rules are broken, bad things can happen.
Because this is a horror movie – more specifically an 80s influenced slasher – we know the rules won’t be followed by everyone, which will lead to a lot of killing. It starts off with fairly typical slasher fare; after summoning the demons – but before any of the characters actually see them – the friends separate a bit, allowing them to be picked off one-by-one without alerting the others. After the first few kills, all hell breaks loose and the fun really starts.
In a particularly fun scene, the three demons lay waste to a room full of people enjoying the rockabilly stylings of The Legendary Hucklebucks. The Hucklebucks themselves are killed, then the blood really flies as all in attendance are laid to waste. Heads are crushed, faces are eaten, throats are slit, eyes are popped out a la Friday the 13th Part 3, faces are melted via boiling water, limbs are ripped off with abandon, and so much more. And it’s all set to a rockabilly soundtrack. The demons really get creative with their killing, and it’s beautiful. It’s a bloody, gleeful scene, and I won’t deny that I watched the entire thing with a grin on my face.
In fact, “gleeful” is a good way to describe this movie. It’s an homage to 80s slasher/monster movies without a hint of irony. This is not done while winking at the camera. This is not a parody, and it’s certainly not meant as a deconstruction of the genre. This was a movie made by a guy who grew up loving that era of horror and desperately wanted to make a movie of his own that would fit in with the films of that time. Justin Seaman – the writer/director – came up with the idea for The Barn when he was 8 years old, and that shows here. The youthful exuberance and love for all things Halloweeny and gory is on full display.
If you’ve ever wanted a full movie that captures the atmosphere of the trick or treating scene in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, this is it. It perfectly captures the spirit of Halloween, and will surely find its way into my yearly Halloween movie rotation. I love this movie completely.
The young cast is great. The cameos from Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman were great. The entire movie is an absolute blast. Make yourself a bowl of popcorn, throw this movie on and get ready for a fun night.
You can buy DVD for The Barn – as well as a ton of other great stuff – on their merch page.