Stephen Moyer (True Blood) plays Richard, a family man with a newish wife and young son, plus a teenage daughter from his first marriage. In an attempt to bring everyone closer together, he decides to take them to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for a little getaway. This a great vacation spot, because it's the home of a legendary demon. What better place to relax and bond?
Almost needless to say, there’s friction right away. Stepdaughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald) doesn't want to leave her friends and computer, mom Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) is arguing with her, while young Daniel (Peter DaCunha) is caught in the middle.
We see some blood and gore from writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saws 2, 3, & 4) right away as they are driving out to the woods on a back country road. Richard, at the wheel, nearly runs over a deer on the way to the campsite. Imagine their surprise when they see the critter was already a gory pulp, as if hit by another car. Only there are no other cars on the road. How'd poor Bambi get so torn up?
The family arrives at the campsite. Its full of other people, and Ranger Bob (J La Rose) is just a little too condescending for Pine Barrens veteran Richard's taste. He knows what he's doing. So they decide to pull up stakes and see if they can get some privacy. But of course there is yet another camper off-site: Yep, it's the Jersey Devil!
Although Richard spent a lot of youthful summers there in the forest, the memories are not happy. He starts getting very paranoid, but he’s not the only one who’s freaked out. His wife and kids are hearing and seeing things too – oh, and the occasional dead body shows up – but no one can be sure if it’s the famous monster or just crazy old dad going off the rails.
Moyer, hardly the suave or tough Vampire Bill here, puts in a perfect paranoia performance as an unraveling soul. (Sorry though, ladies, he's make to look very worn out and rough around the edges). The actor does an admirable job of never tipping his hand of whether on he's crazy or a killer. The question remains, Why would he kill anyone? Surely, it’s the Devil. But just when you start thinking that, Bousman throws in another boomerang twist, making you question your decision. There is no Devil… is there?
While there is resolution towards the end (it's no secret, The Barrens is a monster movie! Old-school, no CGI creature creations here), there's definitely suspense and tension. While it's mostly Moyer's movie, ups must be given to the rest of the cast support and buoy his bugginess quite well.
The film is quite gory and bloody in its own right, certainly more so than Bousman’s few latest films, 11:11 and the Devil’s Carnival. It’s not quite up to Saw and Mother’s Day levels in gut wrenching horror, but it’s a good mix of supernatural and visceral. DP Joe White does a nice job of making the woods seem bleak and unprotecting, while terrific music adds to the tension. The editing is good, but there are lots of kitschy "gotchya!" effects and visuals I could have done without.
The DVD is sadly slim on supporting material. There is director commentary though, which is fun for fans, but not a lot with Moyer and no documentary or back-story on The Jersey Devil.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson