Director Darren Lynn Bousman is an interesting individual. After rising to prominence directing Saw II, III, and IV, he bypassed the studio in favor of more personal projects, including a weird horror/science fiction/musical called Repo! The Genetic Opera. Certainly an odd choice, and one that did not pay off in popularity, although I really enjoyed it. This movie is another example of a personal project. The Barrens is a movie that Bousman has said he's wanted to make since Saw II.
The Barrens is set in the southern New Jersey Pine Barrens, specifically Wharton State Park. It is a real park; however, it is not where they shot. While the setting of the tale is a real place, they were unable to shoot there, instead they shot in Vancouver, Canada. It is a sad thing and Darren Bousman speaks to that fact on the commentary track.
The Pine Barrens is where the mythical monster The Jersey Devil is said to roam. I would not exactly call this a monster movie, but the legend of the monster hangs like a specter over the entire film. If this movie lies on the shadow of the Jersey Devil (a monster still waiting for a definitive movie) but isn't really a monster movie, what is it? The best way to describe it would probably be to call it The Shining meets The Blair Witch Project. It isn't found footage, but it is almost exclusively set in the woods and it definitely features some madness.
Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) has fond memories of his father taking him to the barrens to camp as a child. Years later, with a family of his own, he wants to take them camping like he did as child, to share his joys. Well, when they get to the campgrounds, Richard discovers it is not the same place that it used to be. The camp is overrun with families and mobile technology.
In an effort to reconnect with his childhood and the idea of camping in the first place, Richard packs the family up and heads deeper into the woods. This is a turning point as real danger begins to creep in.
I don't want to give it all away, as the movie is quietly interesting. I do not think it is a rear movie by any stretch, but there is something rather involving about it. We get a nice campfire scene where the Jersey Devil tale is told. We have a main character who is hallucinating and literally falling apart on front of us. Everything adds up to a slow burn thriller with some subtle monster elements.