The Barn: Movie Review


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.



My thoughts:
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.


Rating: 5/5

You can buy DVD for The Barn – as well as a ton of other great stuff – on their merch page.

Diary of a Slasher: Entry 2

True to my word, I headed out the next day.  To watch.  Certainly some vile things were happening; not every person at church camp was there to study the Bible.  Some of them had to be pursuing some extracurricular activities.  No group of teenagers ass all good.  All I needed was one frisky couple and I’d be set.
Listen.  I’ve been doing this a long time and discovered one ironclad rule of the universe: if you put a group of kids in their late-teens/early-twenties in a secluded location, there will be sex.  Always.

Sure enough, I spotted a couple heading off to a cabin.  They appeared to be looking around to see if anyone was watching them.  Maybe that was my imagination – that I wanted them to be doing something they knew they shouldn’t be – but I don’t think that was the case.  Under the cover of the forest, I followed.  They opened the door, giggled, and went inside.


I like to wait until their moment has passed, then strike when one of them has gotten up.  I’ll kill the one still in bed, wait for the other one to return, then kill them while they’re in shock.  It’s a well-used method and it has served me well.

The cabin was raised up a bit, so I was able to lurk below the window without them detecting me.  It wasn’t long before I heard the familiar sounds: muffled voices and a couple proclamations of “Oh God.”
They stayed in bed for a while afterwards.  I could hear their voices talking, but I couldn’t make out the words.  Eventually I heard the familiar sound of old bed springs squeaking as one of them exited the bed.  I expertly navigated the back steps – careful to miss the spots that would make noise – and pushed open the back door (I had applied WD-40 to all the hinges before their arrival: never let it be said that I lack preparation).

The boy was still in bed.  He was sitting up with his back to me.  I thought it was odd that he was fully dressed, but it didn’t change what I needed to do.  I raised my axe and put it through his head with one fell swoop.  It was then I looked down and noticed what was sitting on his lap: a Bible.  They weren’t having sex: they were having a secret Bible study.  The proclamations of “Oh God,” were shouted out in prayer.

I couldn’t believe it.  How could this be?

As I stood there in shock, the girl came out of the bathroom.  Like the boy, she was fully clothed.  She looked at me and opened her mouth to scream.  With one step I crossed the room and put my axe through her mouth.

I stood there, looking at the scene.  It was clear what they were doing in here, but I couldn’t let this get out.  I’d never live it down.  So I did what any killer would do in my situation: I undressed both of them, took a picture and sent it along to my text thread of other killers.  “Guess they weren’t so pious after all,” I wrote.  I would have felt bad about it, but my soul left me when I died, so it didn’t bother me.

Then came the clean up.  I wasn’t ready to alert the rest of the campers to my presence, so I put the two “love birds” in bed and covered them with a blanket.  With no mop in the cabin, I grabbed a brush, got on my knees and started scrubbing up the blood.  I wondered if Jason Voorhees had ever pulled a stunt like this, and I came to the conclusion that he probably had at some point in his career.

With my first kill out of the way, it was now time to hit the others.  Church camp be damned, I would take all of them out.


You can read Part 1 here.

Hills and Hollers: Movie Review


I have long been a proponent of sub-B movies.  It wasn’t long ago I praised Don Dohler’s “classic” Galaxy Invader, an objectively terrible movie that is fun precisely because of its low-budget terribleness.  But there’s an earnestness and love for the material that is really fun to watch.

It’s also impossible to think of sub-B movies and not think of Ed Woods’ entire career.  Plan 9 From Outer Space is the easiest to reference (mainly because it’s the one I’ve seen the most), full of swaying tombstones and terrible acting and a nonsensical plot and all matter of other shenanigans.

plan_9That’s not to say that all sub-B movies are terrible.  When I think about no-budget movies, the zombie movie Colin comes to mind.  It was made for less than $200, and it shows, but it’s a terrific movie that offers a different look at the zombie genre.  It may be cheap, but it’s lovely and sweet and heartbreaking and terrific, provided you can get past some of the sound/lighting/acting limitations.

colinOne thing all of those movies have in common is a love for the genre, and an honest desire to make a good movie, even if there isn’t enough money to throw a glossy coat of paint over it.  A filmmaker is a filmmaker, regardless of how much money they have.

Night of the Living Dead.  Halloween.  Evil Dead.  The Blair Witch Project.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Manos: The Hands of Fate.  Basket Case.  It’s Alive.  The Stuff.  Chopping Mall.  Midnight Movie.  Motel Hell.  Sleepaway Camp.  Anything Troma puts out.  Horror has a long-standing history with low-to-no budget movies.  Every movie I just listed is enjoyable, if not always for the same reason.

motel-hell-pigMade on a budget of $5,000, Hills and Hollers certainly fits into the no-budget category.  The production values are low, but there is a charm and love that is present every step of the way.

hills-frank-and-patriciaWe start off the movie with a wannabe rock star and his gum-snapping girlfriend as they wind their way through Indiana backroads.  Even before they encounter a leering creep in a gas station parking lot, we know how their story ends: quickly and with guts strewn on the blade of a chainsaw.  They’re the cannon fodder to whet our appetite, and I was not the least bit sorry to see them go.

For the rest of the movie, we follow around Frank and Patricia, a newly pregnant couple just trying to make their way in the world.  And also to escape from a gang of silent, backwoods psychopaths with a love of power tools.

I had actually come up with names for each of these psychopaths, only to find out that they already had names.  I will say that their actual names were better than my made-up names, but only slightly.  I have a very high opinion of my ability to name masked killers.  Everyone has a gift.

This is by no means a great movie.  The budget is low, the action is slow and there is a 5+ minute scene of our heroes talking about the rules to a card game.  (Considering the movie has a run time of slightly less than an hour, that card scene really sticks out.)


No, it’s not great.  But, provided you’re in the right mindset, it can be a ton of fun.  I loved the villains as they trudged through the forest in their makeshift killing clothes.  I loved the man who kept using his blowtorch on every rock and plant he passed.  I loved how Frank had a couple scenes where he spouted action movie clichés.  I loved the look of entrails draped over a chainsaw.  I loved how the washed-up rocker guy wandered a solid 200 yards from his car to urinate, allowing him to be killed without alerting his girlfriend.  I loved the deaths (particularly the final one).  I loved the scenes of Frank and Patricia eluding their captors through the hills of Indiana, with the fall leaves fresh on the ground.  I loved it all.

Throw on Hills and Hollers and embrace the low budget nature.  You’ll be glad you did.

Diary of a Slasher: Entry 1

I wait just beyond the treeline.  I like to listen.  I have to listen.

It’s a little tricky.  I can’t reveal myself too soon or everything is lost.  It’s all part of the game; part of the code.  It’s not going to fall on me to screw it up.

Let me back up.  They call me Johnny Blood.  When I was alive, my name was John Hansen.  I must admit, I’m a fan of the name Johnny Blood.
I used to hang out around Camp Snowgrass during the offseason.  I liked to climb the trees and borrow a boat for an afternoon.  One day I happened upon a group of older children who did not take kindly to my presence.  They threw rocks at me.  The first couple didn’t bother me, but once they started to draw blood, something snapped.  The townsfolk found the bodies in one of the boats.  The boat was filled to the brim with blood – no small feat, let me tell you – and the bodies were hacked to pieces.
There was a quick bit of mob justice, and John Hansen was no more.

I still don’t know quite how – lightning strike to my casket seems the most likely culprit – but I awoke in my grave with a single goal: kill those responsible for my death.  Also, to kill teenagers.  I don’t know exactly why I am driven to kill random teenagers, but I am.  You won’t find me complaining about it.

You’ve heard some variation of this story a hundred times by now.  So what makes me so special?  Nothing really.  Just another dime-a-dozen killer.  I wanted to keep this diary for…oh, who knows what reason.  Boredom, I guess.

Where were we?  Oh yes.  “Just beyond the treeline.”

It’s a tradition among visitors to Camp Snowgrass to gather around the campfire and tell the story of Johnny Blood.  I say it’s tricky because there’s a timing to it all.  I can’t make a noise until they finish telling the story.  So I have to be within earshot, but I also have to be perfectly still.  Easier said than done when waiting in a forest literally crawling with all manner of bugs.  I can’t even reach under my mask to scratch my nose.  I swear those kids at the campfire wait to tell my story on purpose, just to put me through all of this.  I’m glad they’ll be dead soon.

The campfire stories always start the same way.  They tell the one about the hook on the car door.  The stranger in the backseat.  Eventually, someone says, “Sure, those are great.  But let me tell you a really scary story.  And it happened right here in this camp.”  As soon as my story is over – embellished a little more every time it is told, naturally – I step on a dried branch on the ground and move away quickly.  They’ll all snap their heads around and someone will say, “Did you guys see that?  I think I saw something.”

And then it’s on.

Last night, a new group of campers came in.  So there I stood, just out of sight, listening to their voices unite in song.

They started in song.  They always start in song.  Someone who knows 3 chords pulls out their guitar and butchers their way through a handful of songs.  It’s always “Kum Ba Yah,” followed by a few songs that were popular 10+ years ago.  It’s like a bad coffee shop performance, but with more marshmallows.

The sweet, sweet sounds of “Kum Ba Yah,” started up and I got myself mentally prepared.  They followed that up with “Let It Be,” then “Onward Christian Soldiers.” They finished up with “It Is Well.”
Then they prayed.
It’s a church group.  I’m stalking a church group.

I mentioned before that there are a lot of killers out there like me.  We have a Slack channel where we swap stories.  Dejectedly, I typed, “Church group.  They’re praying. Can you believe it?”

The replies came fast and furious, which led me to believe none of them were doing any killing that night either.  Slow day, I guess.

I stood there listening but not really hearing anything.  Eventually I heard, “Let me tell you a really scary story.  And it happened right here in this camp.”  My ears perked up.  Maybe there was hope for them yet.

The story was all wrong.  I didn’t hear a single word about dismembered bodies or boats filled with blood.  Not once did they call me Johnny Blood.  They referred to me as, “that poor, tortured soul,” and they all agreed to pray for me.

The story was done and it was time for me to play my part.  So I stepped on a dried branch and moved away quickly, but my heart wasn’t really in it.  I didn’t even hear anyone ask, “Did you guys see that?”  Probably because their heads were all bowed in prayer.

Disheartened, I trudged back to my dilapidated cabin.  How was I supposed to kill these kids if they weren’t scared of me?  How was I supposed to kill them if they didn’t engage in any lewd sexual encounters?  That’s how I always kick off my killing spree: wait until a couple is off in the throes of passion, then pick up two quick kills. The group doesn’t notice they’re missing for a long time, as everyone believes they’re engaging in some passionate necking.

Sure, I could still kill these kids, but what’s the point?  The other guys would all mock me.  “Tell me again about the time you snuck up on those praying kids and ripped their heads off with piano wire,” they’ll laugh.  They’re ruthless.

Maybe this will be different.  Maybe this will be the kind of church camp where everyone rebels and are hopping into each other’s bunks every night.
I don’t really believe that, but I have to hope.
Tomorrow.  Tomorrow I’ll head back out and watch.  Maybe they aren’t as squeaky clean as they appear.

Chopping Mall: Movie Review

chopping mall - poster

In an attempt to shore up their overnight security, a mall unveils their new plan: metal security doors  that will close at night.  Also, three patrolling robots.  They swear the robots are non-lethal, but that doesn’t explain their onboard head-exploding lasers.  Some teens decide to have an after-hours party in a furniture store.  Lightning strikes the mall, the non-lethal robots are turned into murder machines and the teens try to survive.

chopping mall - robot
My thoughts:
The original title of this movie was Killbots.  Granted, that’s a pretty cool title, but I think Chopping Mall was the correct choice.  Really, they couldn’t have gone wrong with either of those two options.

This was a movie I had heard of, but never got around to watching it.  I didn’t know anything about it other than, “robots kill people in a mall.”  With that description, I should have rushed to watch it the minute I heard it, but, alas, I do not always make the smartest decisions.

chopping mall - mike & robot
The runtime is 77 minutes, which is ridiculous and perfect.  The set-up of “hey, we have robots patrolling a mall for some reason,” and “we’re kids, let’s party in a mall with roaming robots,” takes about 30 minutes.  Shortly after that, the group realizes that these robots will kill (this is where the aforementioned “head-exploding lasers,” come into play), and we’re off to the races.  There isn’t a lot of dead time in this movie.  They set it up, introduce the characters, then start killing them off.  Sure, they could have added another 10 minutes, but for what purpose?  I guess they could have added another couple to kill, but you know what they say: 8 people is a sex party, 10 people is an unlicensed orgy.

Can we talk about the characters for a second?  Because I love them all.

chopping mall - alison & ferdy
Alison & Ferdy – Our main couple.  They were set-up on a blind date.  While everyone else is banging on beds directly behind them, Alison and Ferdy are hanging out on a couch watching old sci-fi movies.  I love them dearly.
Alison is played by Kelli Maroney, who starred in the terrific Night of the Comet.
Ferdy is played by Tony O’Dell, best known for his turn as Alan Pinkard in Head of the Class.  He also played a member of the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid I & II.

chopping mall - greg & suzie
Greg & Suzie – “All they do is have sex and fight.”  Suzie is the one who convinced Alison to come to the party.  She dances like a less-insane version of Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.  They’re beautiful people.
Suzie is played by horror icon Barbara Crampton, still cranking out solid horror movies in her late 50s.
Greg is played by Nick Segal, who had a short-lived acting career.  However, his first movie credit was in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.  So that’s something.

chopping mall - rick & linda
Rick & Linda – Married.  They’re mechanics, and this comes up more often than I thought it would.  They have a really sweet relationship.  For a 77 minute 80s slasher about killer robots, I thought their characters were fleshed out really well.  Of all the couples in this movie, they were my favorite.
Rick is played by Russell Todd, who played Scott in Friday the 13th Part II.

chopping mall - mike & leslie
Mike & Leslie – Terrible people.  TERRIBLE people.  Mike is a stereotypical 80s villain, with big hair and a style of gum-chewing that can conservatively be described as “aggressive.”  Leslie is a shallow mean girl with an ample chest.  She will take her top off for no other reason than it will convince people to buy her cheap cigarettes.  They’re perfect for each other, and it’s clear they will be the first to die.  I have no idea why everyone else hangs out with them.
Mike is played by John Terlesky.  A year before Chopping Mall, he played an uncredited corpse in an episode of V.

Seriously. Look at this jackass.

I don’t know how many other things I can say about this.  It’s short.  It’s insane.  It’s beautiful.  It’s so gloriously over-the-top that I kind of assume the filmmakers were showing just how ridiculous the slasher genre can be.

Make no mistake: this is a slasher movie.  Sure, the killers are robots, but they employ some pretty solid slasher techniques.  Making noises in a dark hallway to make you shout out, “Who’s there?” and “That’s not funny.”  Stalking their victims and striking at the exact right moment.  Sure, once the movie gets rolling the robots are out there in the open, firing their lasers with reckless abandon.  But in the early going, they’re operating in stealth mode.  Like a short, metallic Michael Myers who just happens to say, “Have a nice day,” after killing people.

chopping mall - running
This is a glorious time capsule of mid-80s mall culture and the state of the horror genre.  It’s amazing.  My only complaint is that I didn’t watch it sooner, but that’s on me.

Rating: 5/5

Alright Mike. One more time.
Alright Mike. One more time. Give the people what they want.