Erik McCormack gets cabin fever in Barricade
After playing Will Truman on Will & Grace for nine seasons, Eric McCormack has stepped as far away from the sitcom genre as he could over the last few years, most recently headlining the new TV drama Perception. Now, McCormack has gone even further out of his comfort zone with his starring role in the new psychological horror film Barricade, produced by WWE Studios and now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Barricade tells the story of Terence Shade, a psychologist who doesn't have enough time in the day to spend with his kids. His wife wants them all to go to her old family cabin way, way, way up in the mountains to give the kids a white Christmas. The story jumps to a year later, and Shade's wife has died under mysterious circumstances (mysterious, at least, until the climax of the movie), but he wants to honor her wishes and takes their two kids to the cabin. Once there, strange noises and shadows begin to terrorize the family … or has madness overtaken them?
You have to hand it to the producers of Barricade for really committing to the psychological horror of the story and not going for the over-the-top blood and guts you might expect … especially coming from WWE Studios. Yes, that WWE. In fact, this is the first WWE production that does not feature any of its stable of wrestling stars. Besides the wife and the old man, who are only in the film briefly, this really is a story about three characters confined to a single location. You almost get a The Shining vibe as the story progresses, although you don't know if Terence has actually gone mad, if the cabin is haunted (since we don't know how the wife died), or if something else is affecting his behavior. The story keeps the viewer nicely off-balance, never knowing if what Terence is seeing and experiencing is real or imagined.
That's not to say that some of the scare aren't cheap ones. Early on, the filmmakers rely way to much on the LOUD MUSIC CUE to make you jump, when it's not really necessary. At one point, Terence looks out the window and the grotesque face of his dead wife is peering in at them. A quick cut to that would have been sufficiently creepy, so it really didn't need that extra OOMPH of the music to make you jump. It actually distracted me from seeing the face in the window because I did jump. So, yeah, it works but for all the wrong reasons.
While the film works hard to keep you guessing, McCormack gets kudos for his off-balance performance as well. He has to walk that fine edge of sanity and madness without ever teetering off to either side. We know as the story progresses that Terence is severely over-medicating himself (presumably to deal with his wife's death), so that may have something to do with his behavior. He, and perhaps the kids, come down with the flu as well, so that may also have something to do with the delirium. But you're never sure if anything Terence is doing is actually happening or all in his head because things can change in an instant within a scene, and McCormack has to go from madness to rational adult in the blink of an eye and he always pulls it off.
Barricade may not be a great thriller, but it's good enough to warrant a look for McCormack's performance and the terrific production design (be sure to check out the informative extras on the DVD to see how they built the cabin interiors and created the snowy exteriors). The ending may be a bit too tidy – it's certainly not an M. Night Shyamalan twist – but at least we know what happened to the wife, and if Terence is sane, mad or just a little under the weather. If you're looking for something that will send chills down your spine without a lot of blood, gore, masked killers or scary monsters, then this just might be the movie for you.