Friday, September 9

Barbarian Review


Dir: Zach Cregger

Starring: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long

1h 42m


The element of surprise is a rare treat to find in a film these days. For writer/director Zach Cregger and the horror thriller "Barbarian," the secretive plot intentions of the film are part of the enjoyment of the experience. Assisted by a well-crafted trailer, the film provides just enough information to keep the suspense brewing until it shifts strongly beyond expectations. "Barbarian" is a crowd pleaser, a horror film full of fun surprises.


Zach Cregger, part of the comedy troupe "The Whitest Kids U' Know," cleverly adapts a timely story that initially feels like a relationship thriller but turns into an undeniable venture into the depths of horror storytelling. In the opening moments, Tess (Georgina Campbell), heading to Detroit for a job interview, arrives on a rainy night at her Airbnb. Unexpectedly, someone else is staying at the house, a suspicious man named Keith (Bill Skarsgård), who is just as confused about the mix-up. After being warned about the rough neighborhood, Tess is talked into sharing the space by Keith. 


Cregger does a great job of building an atmosphere from the start. In the beginning moments, Tess' arrival at the Airbnb creates a sense of isolation with a vehicle arriving in a dark and desolate community in the middle of a storm. The raindrops thump with a bass-heavy drone, and screams echo subtly in the background. It's no doubt from the start that something scary is building.  


"Barbarian" does an excellent job of engaging in real-world fears, creating an uncomfortable scenario for Tess. Having actor Bill Skarsgård, well-known as Pennywise from the 2017 update of "It," helps establish the unsettling vibe with enthusiastic creepiness. A glass of wine is the perfect scenario to add layers to the suspense of everything between the two characters. Cregger composes exceptional pacing in these early set-ups, leading to an encounter in the middle of the night between Tess and a sleeping Keith that adds to the questions. 


Once daylight breaks and Tess starts her drive to the interview in the city, she finally sees the complete disrepair of the neighborhood. The home she slept in was the lone livable residence in the entire community. After a successful interview, Tess returns to the house and is lured into the basement. She finds a rope that, when pulled on, opens a hidden door. Behind it is a maze of abandoned rooms and hallways leading deeper below the house. 


"Barbarian" should not be spoiled beyond this point. What Cregger and his collaborators do with the remainder of the film is shocking, funny, and completely unexpected. It's a horror film that has excellent balance with how it utilizes its tropes while also allowing the characters time to be intelligent and foolish with their decisions. It is the perfect kind of character for a horror film. The unexpected arrival of another character, an arrogant actor (Justin Long), adds an interesting narrative element that provides relevant commentary about the abusive trauma men induce on women. It all comes crashing together in a third act that goes completely off the rails of expectations. While the social commentary themes get a little lost in the mix of the extremes that happen in the finale, they still offer a nice balance with the characters in a fun and unique way. 


Go to "Barbarian" knowing as little about the movie as possible; it's one of the year's best surprises.  


Monte's Rating

3.50 out of 5.00


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