When I was shooting Saw II, the producer Gregg Hoffman asked me what I wanted to do next... My first answer was always REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. But, being a business man, Hoffman knew the risk reward on a weird rock opera was not worth it (oh, little did he know).
"Come on, Bousman, what else do you have... something where they don't sing."
As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with cryptozoology. For us to believe we have discovered every known entity on our planet is absurd. Why couldn't there be a Loch Ness Monster? Who's to say there isn't a Bigfoot hiding out somewhere?
The biggest issue when trying to do a movie on some "mythological" creature, is finding one that hasn't been over-saturated in the media.
One that always terrified me as a kid was The Jersey Devil. Yes, the descriptions of this winged beast is nightmare fuel for sure... But, what always struck me was the consistency and credibility of the eyewitness reports. We aren't talking about a drunk fisherman spotting a ripple in the water, or a camping redneck who saw a footprint. The accounts that came from the Pine Barrens were those of doctors, lawyers, police chiefs, heads of state, and even Presidents.
For years, I had an idea of making a Jersey Devil film. My take was a Monster Movie... BUT, the monster was a person, and the beast was more of a backdrop. (I'll explain that in a minute.)
I had a great experience making MOTHER'S DAY with Richard Saperstein and Brian Witten, so I snuck them my spec I had written called THE BARRENS.
I loved the script. It was, I thought, a unique take on the mythology. I wanted to make a movie about a man's descent into madness while hiking with his family in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. As we watch our hero lose his mental faculties, he begins to see The Jersey Devil.
My goal was, I never wanted the audience to know if this creature was real, or just a figment of his imagination.
The story focused on the dynamic he had with his dysfunctional family, all while losing his shit...
A movie about a man's mental unraveling, set against the forest that may contain The Jersey Devil.
The movie was greenlit faster than any film I had been attached to, and we were off to the races. I was so excited to be making this passion project of mine, and getting the chance to make a monster movie my way.
Here is where shit got... fucked. I was so excited to be making this movie, I started making unwise decisions that affected the overall film. An example, as a director, one of the first things we agree on is "how many days do we need to film the movie?" When we started pre-production, I said 30. By the time the shoot began we were down to 20. A rain storm hit on the first day of production, and since the ENTIRE movie takes place outside, we tried to wait the rain out... Two days later it hadn't stopped raining so we said fuck it... Let's shoot in the rain. 17 days. We started filming and after one day the rain stopped and bright blue skies. We had to reshoot that first day. 16 days.
At times, production itself seemed like a comedy of errors. The Jersey Devil monster itself was behind schedule. We didn't get a chance to see the final version until the day it was needed. When it arrived on set, the mechanics were so heavy the actor who was hired to operate it couldn't move inside of it. Literally, the Jersey Devil was completely immobile.
In the end, the shoot was the most taxing shoot I've been a part of.
I love the film, and wish more people saw it. I think my fans wished it would have been more a "monster" story, but for me... telling it through the eyes of a man losing his mind was dynamic, and something I stand by today.