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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Barber

May 2nd, 2015

The Barber - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Barber came out at the end of March and failed to find an audience in theaters. It was the wrong genre for limited release, but the reviews didn't help. Now that it is out on the home market, is it worth checking out? Were the critics unjustly harsh?

The Movie

The film begins in the past. We see a woman being buried alive and then clips of newspapers and TV news talking about 17 missing women, some of which were found after being buried alive. We learn there was a suspect, Francis Allen Visser, but due to the lead investigator, Detective Thomas McCormack, mishandling evidence he has been released. While he son plays video games in the other room, Thomas McCormack kills himself.

We flash forward 20 years and the child, John McCormack, has grown up and has traveled to Moraine. It's there we meet Eugene Van Wingerdt, the local barber. Its night and he talks with his employee, Luis, about cleaning up his station, while Luis tries to convince Eugene to go out and have some fun. Instead, Eugene heads to the local diner where he talks with the police chief, Hardaway, and the waitress, Kelli, takes his order without even asking what he wants. Clearly he's a well-liked member of this small town.

However, John has followed Eugene into the diner and after talking to the waitress, he leaves. When Eugene leaves, John confronts him accusing him of being Francis Allen Visser. He even stabs Eugene, but John is quickly caught by Hardaway. John gives a false name, but after Hardaway roughs him up a bit, Eugene comes to the police station and asks Hardaway to let him go. Shortly after that, Eugene picks up John and drives him to the woods outside of town. There we learn Eugene really is Visser, but he claims he is an innocent man. Meanwhile, John claims to be a budding serial killer who wants to lean from Visser. Eugene ignoring him leaves him in the woods and tells him to hitchhike out of town.

Instead, John gets picked up by Kelli and asks her for a ride back into town. While in the car, he gets a call from Audrey, who is ... well, she's a spoiler.

The Barber is a serial killer thriller with a surprise twist. Many surprise twists, actually. Too many surprise twists. I've said in the past, that a good surprise twist will make you want to immediately go back and watch the movie again, to see if you can find any clues. A bad surprise twist will make you retroactively hate an otherwise good movie. Too many surprise twists will make you give up on the movie long before it's done. This is the case here. Compounding this issue is the script, which lacks the deftness needed to carry out these twists. Or perhaps the screenwriter thought the audience wasn't sharp enough to follow along. Regardless of the reason, there are too many exposition dumps in the movie, which really hurts the pacing and the tension.

There are some aspects of the film that do work. Chief among these is the performance by Scott Glenn. Stephen Tobolowsky is great, as always. I liked seeing Olivia Taylor Dudley, even if her character didn't have a lot to do. Overall, it is better than its Tomatometer Score; it is closer to mediocre than outright bad.

The Extras

The only extras on the Blu-ray are some deleted / extended / alternative scenes with a running time of 16 minutes.

The technical presentation is good, especially for a low-budget film. It was shot digitally, so it should come as no surprise that the film looks good on high definition. It is not the most visually striking film I've seen, but I have no complaints about the details, colors, black levels, etc. The audio is actually a little more active than I thought it would be with lots of ambient noises and good use of directional effects.

The Blu-ray costs $12, which is actually less than the DVD. You can't complain about that.

The Verdict

The Barber has some good ideas, but a clumsy execution. It needed at least one less surprise twist and fewer exposition dumps, but it is not as bad as its Tomatometer Score would indicate. If you like the cast and the genre, maybe give the DVD or Blu-ray a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Barber, Scott Glenn, Kristen Hager, Stephen Tobolowsky, Chris Coy, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Max Arciniega, Jr.