Writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman isn’t one to sit still for very long; after helming three successful Saw sequels from 2004 to 2007, he’s gone on to direct a string of genre flicks, and his latest thriller, The Barrens, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Films.
Recently Dread Central caught up with the ever-busy Bousman on the phone to chat about his Jersey Devil-inspired project that stars Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner and Shawn Ashmore. During our interview we heard more from him on his experiences making the film, his thoughts on collaborating with Moyer and how he pushed the “True Blood” star to his limits, and much more.
Read on for the highlights from our exclusive interview with Bousman.
Dread Central: I really enjoyed the fact that The Barrens wasn’t exactly the “Jersey Devil” movie you think it’s going to be; can you discuss why you decided to go with such an unusual approach?
Darren Lynn Bousman: You know, for me it was all about the idea that if you can remove the gimmick to the story, the movie would still work on its own merits. With Repo! the movie still worked if you removed the singing. With the Saw movies they all still worked when you took away the gore elements. And in the case of The Barrens, it needed to still work even if it didn’t have a movie monster aspect. Does it still hold water?
It’s a monster movie that has this sort of “descent into madness” feel to it, which I thought was something that really hadn’t been done before; not a lot has been done with the Jersey Devil in fact. I really don’t feel like this creature has been exploited as much as other creatures like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness or maybe even the Chupacabra; so I saw the Jersey Devil’s mythology as this untapped resource, and I thought that would be a perfect monster to set this terrifying psychological thriller against.
Dread Central: Talk about casting. Stephen Moyer as your lead; it was definitely against type in comparison to his work on “True Blood,” which I’ve enjoyed.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, Stephen was great; the whole movie rests on his shoulders, and he just kicks ass. I have tremendous respect for this guy; he always wanted to be on set as much as humanely possible, and it wasn’t necessarily an “easy” set to be on considering our location. But I think that to me is what makes for a great actor- someone who was going to be there not only for the job, but as a team player in this whole process.
The range of emotions that he has to go through in 90 minutes is astounding, and I think his work here really showed his acting chops off. He was totally down for anything, and he took a big risk with his movie. I think that he saw it as a chance to do more than he gets to do on “True Blood” – being a reserved vampire – and show off that he does have this extreme emotional range when he’s got the right material.
Dread Central: How did shooting go on The Barrens? It doesn’t really look like you guys had a glamorous shoot at all.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, we shot this in Toronto- we wanted to shoot in the Pine Barrens, but logistically we just couldn’t. I knew that would be a sticking point for the Jersey Devil fans out there, that our forest doesn’t look like the Pine Barrens, but we got as close as we could; and I think overall it still looks pretty damn close. I don’t think it detracts from the story either.
So this movie was made for a very small amount, and we shot it in what turned out to be 16 days; it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever made. It was a really, really rough shoot; we were plagued with weather issues and forced to shut down shooting numerous times- it was a nightmare, literally. Plus, this was the first film that I have done which was shot entirely on location. Before, I had sound stages and controlled environments, but with The Barrens we were in the forest the entire time, and you forget to take into consideration things like having to move cables and lighting through the forest. You could spend half a day just moving cable- it was awful.
Dread Central: Let’s talk about the monster- the design and how you conceived the look of it. I appreciated that these days when so many people would have gone digital, you decided to take the complicated route and do a practical creature in this project.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I did not want to do a CG monster movie at all; that was never my intention at any point on this movie so I always intended to have a practical monster in The Barrens. That being said, one of the problems that we ran into is that we were very limited to what we could actually afford and get away with for our Jersey Devil; and given our time constraint with production moving so quickly, I never saw the Jersey Devil until the day it showed up on our set.
So when it actually showed up on set, the thing weighed hundreds of pounds, and the actor that was in it couldn’t move at all inside the costume. Originally we were supposed to see the monster more in the movie but it got to a point that he couldn’t move in the suit, and after all was said and done, it actually took five or six guys to operate it. So the Jersey Devil ends up being in less than a minute in the entire movie.
Dread Central: Any future plans to do more with the Jersey Devil mythology then?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I’m not sure, but I know that I would love to continue this mythology on because I think it’s such a fascinating creature. There’s a lot, too, that we couldn’t really put into the script – more on the witchcraft and Satanism – that I would love to explore in the future, too.
Dread Central: So what’s up next for you then?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, I’ve got the Blu-ray and DVD of The Devil’s Carnival coming out October 23rd, and I’m currently getting my next film project ready – Abattoir – which is based on the comic series I did a few years back. I’m writing the script right now, and I think that’s going to be the next movie I make.
It’s known as the Jersey Devil, the winged beast spawned 400 years ago by Satan himself. Some say this creature still inhabits the dense pine forests of southern New Jersey, where Richard Vineyard (Moyer) takes his family for a rustic weekend camping trip. As the Vineyard family ventures further into the woods in search of the perfect campsite, Richard teeters on the edge of sanity. Welcome to a new kind of horror that lives – and kills – in a place called The Barrens.
Bonus features on The Barrens Blu-ray™/DVD combo (review here) and DVD include commentary by writer/director Bousman and director of photography Joseph White and a deleted scene.
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