Barbarian is a real swing for the fences. The film, which marks the solo directorial debut of writer-director Zach Cregger, is a mix of horror that at certain points feels like a modern riff on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and on other occasions as a loving tribute to the kind of campy horror comedies that Sam Raimi perfected. When is best when Barbarian it feels like it combines these influences to become a horror ride that is both absurd and terrifying.
More than anything, Barbarian it’s different from anything you’ll see in theaters this year. Such a remark is not always equal to praise. However, uniqueness alone is not enough to save a film that is otherwise bursting at the seams. In case of Barbarian, however, the film’s dedication to providing a truly unpredictable and tonally challenging experience is what makes it so memorable. To watch it is to become engrossed not only in the dramatic stakes of the film’s story, but also in the bold, no-nonsense creative spirit at its center.
20th Century Studios, 2022
Like all great horror films, BarbarianThe plot seems deceptively simple at first. The film opens with Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) arriving in the middle of a rain-soaked night at a rental house in Detroit only to find that the place is double booked. When she knocks on the door of the house, Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård) answers and invites her in, offering her respite from the night’s rain until they find a solution to their problem.
It doesn’t take long for Keith to offer to sleep on the couch so Tess can have her only bedroom. Despite being initially (and understandably) hesitant about the idea, Tess agrees and later finds herself having a surprisingly pleasant, flirtatious night with Keith. The next day, however, Tess discovers a secret tunnel in the basement of the rental house, one that leads her straight into what can only be described as an absolute nightmare.
Let me say something more about BarbarianThe plot would spoil a lot of the fun. The film’s early trailers and promotional materials wisely showed little aside from Tessa’s unsettling discovery of her rental house’s secret, subterranean passageway, and for good reason. While Barbarian takes time for the plot to fully heat up, Tessa’s discovery marks a moment in the Barbarian when the film’s sense of dread begins to steadily build before finally arriving at a moment of pure horror that is sure to leave viewers both terrified and laughing in utter disbelief at what they’ve just witnessed.
20th Century Studios, 2022
From there, Barbarian he begins to add more and more layers to his doll in the narrative. Not all of the film’s digressions work—its attempts to satirize the state of modern Hollywood sometimes feel particularly off-kilter—but the episodic structure of Cregger’s screenplay keeps Barbarian pushing along at a refreshingly brisk pace throughout the second and third acts. Cregger’s keen understanding of visual storytelling also helps prevent that Barbarianvarious flashes and tangents from film jamming.
That’s what he said, true nature BarbarianCregger’s story ultimately presents Cregger with two options: he can either submerge viewers in the full, horrifying weight, or he can stave off the darkness. Barbarianbackstory from suffocation by relying on his comedic impulses. Cregger wisely chooses the latter option, and while his direction never quite matches the crazy visual style of horror-comedy auteurs like Sam Raimi, Cregger does BarbarianAn undeniably terrifying story to the most absurd extremes in the last act.
By choosing to inject BarbarianA final third of the film with several doses of sheer absurdity, Cregger manages to heighten the film’s thrills and scares while blunting the impact of its darkest moments. This blending of tones allows Barbarian to ultimately occupy a strange kind of liminal space, one that conveniently exists between reality and fantasy. Meanwhile, the film’s cast members all seem to understand the tone Cregger is going for Barbarian. Justin Long, in particular, gives an unforgettably funny, cheesy supporting performance, even though his role in the Barbarianit is better to leave an unspoiled plot.
20th Century Studios, 2022
Beyond Tessa’s initial excavation of the film’s central underground tunnel, Barbarian it never delivers truly memorable set pieces, which prevents it from feeling like a game-changing genre title in the same sense that, say, The Evil Dead 2. While the film’s setting in Detroit seems deliberate, and Cregger’s screenplay occasionally also interested in exploring that city’s history, BarbarianSeveral thematic ideas never quite come together.
However, by the time she reached her cheeky final drop of the needle, Barbarian nevertheless managed to outgrow his known influences and become a unique work. It’s a remarkable achievement for a film so clearly influenced by such specific horror titles.
BARBARIAN | Official trailer | In cinemas from September 9
BarbarianThe lack of interest in achieving some kind of greater thematic relevance also doesn’t detract from how much fun it really is as both an unpredictable Shyamalan-esque puzzle box and a nerve-wracking horror comedy. The film is one of this year’s most impressive genre experiments. Unlike the unsuspecting woman at the center of the story, horror fans will not regret stepping into the unusual and terrifying tunnel that Barbarianwhich contains countless surprises that are alternately terrifying and funny, but almost always unexpected.
Barbarian arrives in theaters on Friday, September 9.