People have long had a fascination with serial killers, especially the mysterious murders who elude discovery and punishment. Serial killers, fictional and real, occupy a large space in pop culture. Just look at the longevity of Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter. Looking to provide a twist to the time-honored tradition of fictional mass murderers is The Barber, the feature length debut of Basel Owies. While The Barber boasts an interesting concept and a fine lead performance by veteran actor Scott Glenn, it’s ultimately undone by sloppy reveals that undermines the suspense. It’s a good effort that falls short.
The Barber is about a John (Chris Coy), a young man who wants to find the serial killer that eluded his policeman father, leading to his father’s suicide following professional disgrace. He tracks down Eugene Van Wingrdt (Glenn), a kindhearted barber who loathes foul language. Keeping their motives concealed from one another, the two strike up an unsettling partnership. The story is a cat and mouse game that might’ve been better at maintaining suspense had it not clumsily revealed elements so early in the going. For instance, the film opens with a montage of about the grisly murders and John’s father’s overreach which leads to the release of the main suspect. This culminates with the loud bang of his suicide which then cuts to John awaking 20 years later. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t try to play off later events as revelations.
The reason that opening reveal is so clumsy is that from there John asks Eugene to teach him the tricks of the trade about serial killing. Though the film does try to sell that John is genuinely disturbed, that notion is always undercut by reminders that John is constantly mourning his father. The character is blundered because the filmmakers accidentally remove any ambiguity, thus nullifying the tension. The character of Eugene is, for the most part, a well-handled character, leaving moments of doubt as to whether or not he is, in fact, the wanted serial killer of the past. It’s the other characters being too firmly defined in their roles that leave the conclusion rather apparent early on.
There’s also a problem with women that runs through The Barber. Not only are a majority of the victims in this film women, the one female police officer in the film, Audrey (Kristen Hager), makes some unbelievably baffling decisions – from illegally breaking into the home of a suspected serial killer to blatantly propositioning said suspected serial killer. This is undoubtedly the weakest elements of Max Enscoe’s screenplay.
Aside from a moment where a character and his girlfriend don’t notice their friend being beaten with a pipe a mere 5 feet from them, The Barber isn’t one of those painfully inept bad movies. With a few exceptions, The Barber is well shot and edited. Most all, it’s a weak film because it has all the ingredients necessary to tell a much more engaging story than it can piece together.
The Barber is available on Blu-Ray on April 28th. Special features include deleted scenes, alternate scenes, and an alternate ending.