If you hear someone saying, “Don’t go down there,” you should listen. This phrase is frequently used by characters in scary movies as they peer down into the basement’s murky depths in search of the source of a noise. Occasionally, a viewer may interject, “Just do the smart thing and get out of that frightening cellar!” to the on-screen protagonist. When viewing a scary movie, you could say this to yourself. Yet, it’s a meaningless expression. The protagonist is planning to check out the cellar. There are probably spooky creatures lurking underneath. In fact, that certainty is what draws us to the film in the first place. Tension is built up by the prospect of fear, and we want nothing more than to release it with a chuckle or a jump scare. Barbarian, Zach Cregger’s latest horror film, uses this conflict to shock, amuse, and subvert viewers’ expectations.
Young Tess (Georgina Campbell) travels to Detroit the night before her job interview and checks into a rented residence. A young guy called Keith (Bill Skarsgrd) allows her in after she discovers there is no key in the lockbox, revealing that the residence has been double-booked. Hotels being fully booked in the area, they are forced to spend the night together at the home, where they are joined the following day by Hollywood actor AJ (Justin Long).
Barbarian is a horror film that works best if seen with as little prior knowledge as possible. The trailer is purposefully vague in order to build anticipation. To keep the audience guessing about what will happen next is one of its main goals. In a horror film, suspense is key to increasing the terror. A good horror film will scare its audience even if they have seen it all before. Even if the audience thinks they know what will happen, a well-made film will nevertheless keep them on the edge of their seats. The scares in “Barbarian” don’t stop coming. What makes this movie so terrifying is the notion that the danger they face isn’t confined to the two strangers who are trapped inside the house on a rainy night.
The director of the horror film “Barbarian” has chosen carefully between potential outcomes while developing the film’s location and story. Setting the picture in Detroit, for example, may seem like a random decision at first, but it really works quite well with the film’s themes of ruin and violence. The movie’s central conceit is based on a mishap in the sharing economy, which is a subtle and ingenious technique to disrupt audience expectations. There is a steady increase in suspense throughout Barbarian, all the way up to the climax. There are a number of unnerving moments throughout the film that build on one another. The movie builds to a climax of pure terror, and it’s terrifying.
Barbarian is terrifying and hilarious, not to mention disgusting. The first half of the film has a really stressful buildup, and while the second half isn’t quite as terrifying, it remains quite unnerving until the very end. Undeniably, one of the year’s top horror flicks.
To say more would be to ruin the brilliant horror that is the Barbarian movie, which is at once claustrophobic and at times almost uncomfortably stressful as viewers are compelled to look into the stygian blackness as the picture unfolds exposing what is at the core of it all.
The North American release of Barbarian was a huge financial success, grossing over $40 million on a budget of only $4 million. This is a fantastic return for the film’s financiers, and the film’s success may be attributed to its true scare factor. The writing takes some interesting turns and generally keeps you wondering. About halfway through the film, for example, the focus shifts significantly and a new character, AJ (Justin Long), is introduced. The final act does get a little cliched, but by that point you’re already invested. Even though you spend a lot of time silently yelling at Tess, “Don’t go down there!” and “Don’t open that door!”, Georgina Campbell is fantastic in the lead part and makes her very real. (Many avenues are being blocked and opened, but none of them are promising.) Skarsgard does a great job of keeping us on our toes by deftly switching between nice man and creep, while Justin Long is similarly ambiguous in his good guy/bad guy role. Overall, Barbarian will satisfy the cravings of horror film fans, but those who are the kind to avoid a double-booked Airbnb should stay away.
For more details on Barbarian check out the films official IMDB listing.
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