“The Barber” is a slick but ultimately underwhelming psychochiller in which a younger man stalks the older serial killer whose evasion of justice scarred the former’s life. Unlikely to win much critical or word-of-mouth support, this decreasingly suspenseful pic will be much more widely seen via VOD than in its simultaneous limited March 27 theatrical launch. Its primary point of interest may be its status as the first release from Orange County-based Chapman U.’s “sustainable, fully functioning independent film production company,” a detail that’s rather more compelling than anything in this lurid thriller.
A prologue shows a screaming young woman being buried alive; she’s one of apparently 17 such victims in the Chicago area. Suspect Francis Alan Visser (Scott Glenn) is arrested, but let go because of tampered evidence — something that results in the suicide of the investigating police officer responsible.
Twenty years later, Francis is living under the name Eugene Van Wingerdt in a small town, where he’s tracked down by the late cop’s son John McCormack (Chris Coy), who promptly threatens him with a knife. But the seemingly prudish, harmless old man refuses to press charges. Stranger still, Eugene later gives his tormenter a lift, and vigorously denies any connection with the murders despite John claiming, “I’m your biggest fan.”
Asking for inside info on abducting and killing “little birdies,” John initially encounters resistance — but it doesn’t take long for Eugene to take him under wing and drop any pretense of innocence. The elder man promptly fires his resentful assistant (Max Arciniega) to make room for the newcomer who claims to be his son. Meanwhile, John’s undercover-cop g.f., Audrey (Kristen Hager), grows alarmed by his sudden absence and tracks him to his new environs, at her own peril.
After a conventional setup, the movie gradually grinds its gears toward a hectic, muddled last reel that’s heavy on explication. We’re meant to remain uncertain for a long time about John’s and Eugene’s real identities, but helmer Basel Owies and scenarist Max Enscoe do a poor job concealing either. Performances as well as tech/design contributions are pro.