Burning Down The Barn
Director Justin Seaman on the joy of rubber and gore
By Richard Whittaker,
9:00AM, Thu. Jul. 14, 2016
Ask Justin Seaman, director of loving retro-horror The Barn, what his favorite Eighties VHS shocker is, and it's a simple choice. "Night of the Demons," he said, "but I’m a real fan of The Monster Squad. That’s my heart and soul, that’s what made me want to be a filmmaker, that’s what made me want to make The Barn."
The Pittsburgh director's first horror feature made its Texas debut last week, courtesy of the morbid madcap mavericks of Garth Manor, who have previously brought out FX legends like Robert Kurtzman to town for retrospective screenings.
The Barn feels like it could have been an archive print. After all, Seaman made it to feel as if it fell straight out of the blood-flecked high times of VHS horror. That's when he came up with the idea, as a small kid spending time with his grandmother, and coming up with spooky stories about the Boogeyman, Hallowed Jack, and the Candycorn Scarecrow, wreaking a bloody carnage on a rural town as they seek Halloween flesh for Satan.
Now he's completed what he calls "a Goosebumps for adults," including surviving the shoot. The barn itself was about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, near Wheeling, West Virginia. Well, not that close. It wasn't that close to anything. "We were in the middle of nowhere," he said. "Most of the time, there was no cell service. That barn, it was down in the back of the woods, over a hill. You couldn’t even get vehicles down. We had to carry all the equipment."
This was in the middle of an East Coast October, a time when most directors would think about packing up and coming back in May, when the weather was nicer. "And then we did," said Seaman. "I had to. We thought we could make the movie in two weeks and, well, it took two years. We got to the point where I went, 'Let’s get as much as we can outside, and let’s save all the interiors for after.'"
That was a tough decision, because he had no idea whether he could get the cast back but, he said, "These actors, they took it as more than just a job. They saw how passionate I was, and they were down. If it’s going to take six months and you need us to come back, we’ll come back. It took two years for some of them, but I made some really good friends."
It also took an Indiegogo campaign to restart the shoot, but it also allowed him to reverse some budget-mandated edits. "I had to start cutting scenes out that I felt were really important," he said. That included pivotal moments involving hero Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and the Boogeyman (Seaman himself). "There was no interaction, and when I put it all together, it was just not enough. So when we got the money from Indiegogo, we went back, and now it feels whole."
The campaign also helped raise awareness of the film, before it was even finished. It also meant that Seaman became the head of his own toy company/video game firm/record label, as he created a range of incentives and perks that would be the envy of any big-budget feature. He's produced everything from Halloween masks to action figures, board games, and even a fully-functional SNES cartridge game. He said, "I literally have a room in my house, a room I took from my wife, and it’s an inventory. Shipping over here, boxes and packaging, then we’ve got action figures, vinyl, cassettes, CDs, business cards. You look around and go, ‘Was I making a movie?'"