Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Barbarian is a wild, shocking and terrifying experience that will have you trembling in your seat while simultaneously laughing out loud, quickly solidifying writer director Zach Cregger as an exicint new voice in the horror genre.
Horror films are tricky, as there are only so many times you can play the same trick on the audience before it loses its shock value. However, Cregger takes a simple premise that we have seen often, and delivers something new and exciting, proving how far a simple idea can go with outstanding execution. The film follows Tess, a young woman who arrives at her Airbnb during the night, to find that it has been double booked when Keith opens the door. They agree to share the place for the night and contact the property management company in the morning, only to discover that the house is not what it seems. And I won’t say anything more than that, because the less you know about this film the better.
The marketing tells you the premise, but the actual secrets and shocking moments are all surprises. This results in a truly thrilling experience from start to finish. Yes, you may know the direction the story is heading, but Cregger truly shocks you as to the final destination of the story, because it is not anything you would expect! Each act is a long con, toying with the audience for a solid thirty minutes before unleashing a terrifying truth. Cregger keeps the tension building slowly and slowly over the first two acts before having madness explode across the screen at the end of each act. It’s his masterful direction and writing that makes these two acts such a wonderful and terrifying experience for the audience, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you watch the characters approach a certain darkness. However, Cregger perfectly blends comedic moments into the second act. He knows exactly what you are thinking, and drives a dark comedic undertone that will have you roaring with laughter, even if you are terrified at the same time as to what is about to happen in front of your eyes. This all builds to the third act, which is truly wild, but it loses the smart writing that Cregger established in the first two acts. It is bad in no way, as it still delivers a bonkers and gory conclusion to the story, but it is not as strong as the first hour of the film. There is no doubt that Cregger is the true standout of the film, displaying his talent at telling an absolutely twisted story and I am excited to see what he does next with the horror genre.
Cregger has assembled a great cast to bring his vision to light. Led by Georgina Campbell, one of the leads of the short lived Krypton series, and she is a force of nature on screen. She starts off with a charming and sweet performance, while building the caution that you expect from a lead in a horror film. However over the course of the film, Campbell shifts her performance into one of pure fear, that has you hanging onto every facial expression of hers as you pray for her character’s survival. At the same time, there is an undeniable strength that quickly elevates her character beyond a damsel in distress to the powerful equivalent of such prominent horror heroines as Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Bill Skarsgård co-stars as Keith, the young man double booked at the Airbnb. Cregger writes Keith so that the audience is immediately suspicious of him, and Skarsgård perfectly captures that. His tall and gangly figure immediately has you suspicious of him, and he finds the perfect mix of a charming young man with an awkwardness that suggests he is hiding a darker secret, to keep the audience guessing as to his true intentions. Him and Campbell have wonderful chemistry, perfectly playing off each other and delivering a great duo. Then there is Justin Long, who first appears in the second act of the film. I won’t say much about his character, but Long is excellent. He brings his signature comedic style to the film, delivering the funniest moment of the entire film as he discovers the secret that Tess found earlier on, that is guaranteed to have the entire theatre laughing uncontrollably. It is easily the best I have seen from Long in years, mixing comedy with a scared shitless performance that defines the film.
Without going into spoilers, the film features excellent practical effects and makeup to bring to life the terrors of the Airbnb. Every disturbing image feels real, ensuring that your skin is crawling from start to finish. Combined with great use of light and darkness in the cinematography, and a musical score that is offsetting, Barbarian is an experience that you cannot afford to miss on the big screen that is certain to cause a restless sleep afterwards. This is the type of film that is meant to be watched with a large audience on the big screen, as it is such a wild ride that will have the audience laughing, yelling “NO” and screaming for an hour and forty five minutes. So if you are a horror fan, quickly run to your nearest theatre to see Barbarian, which is easily the most insane horror film of the year you will experience as Zach Cregger unleashes his twisted and darkly funny vision that is guaranteed to be a hit!