Barbarian – REVIEW

Barbarian is a film I had heard of but saw little to no promotion for, and it has just hit theaters to universal praise from not only critics, but other filmmakers as well. If you’ve never heard of it, I will say do not go and seek out a trailer, as I believe this is the kind of film best enjoyed blindly. Don’t worry, this is a spoiler free review, which means I won’t be talking too much about the plot. But to give you a bit of a taste, the film follows a woman named Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, arrives at her Detroit AirBNB one rainy night to find it accidentally double booked. The young man who got there before her, Keith, played by Bill Skarsgard, offers to let her stay the night. Although uneasy about the whole situation, the two actually hit it off and the night passes without much fuss. But the 2 become increasingly aware of the true horror that lies in the house…and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Oh and Justin Long is in this too, solidifying himself with the title he was always meant to have; a true Scream Queen.

I’ll give the film credit, whatever you may think this film is about, you’re probably wrong. Expectations are more often than not subverted throughout the film, keeping you in a constant grip of tension and suspense from the very first scene, unwavering in its unspoken assertion that things are about to get much worse. 

Without divulging too many details, I will say once the initial surprise of the story plays out, it can be pretty by the numbers. Yet one of the things that elevates the story beyond your average B-movie schlock is the expert directing from Zach Cregger. This guy definitely understands suspense beyond simple dimly lit basements and well-timed lightning strikes. Mastering the art of implication is crucial to keeping the tension palpable, and Cregger manages this pretty well. He also has a sense of humor, as this film is a lot funnier than I was anticipating, although I only hope that some of the scenes I laughed at were intended to be that way. Truthfully though, if you compare this to another somewhat batshit horror movie like Malignant, this one feels a bit more self-aware of its own absurdity, which never affects the quality of this film. Like I said, the main story itself feels pretty familiar, and you will catch your characters making the same dumb decisions so many before them have made. Yet the film often plays it smart and manages to keep these dumb clichés from being too infuriating by attaching it to a character that (1.) You can believe would make these stupid decisions, and (2.) You actually WANT to see them make those decisions because they’re awful people. 

If you have happened to stumble across the infinite praise this film has been receiving, chances are you’ll be like me and have high expectations. While I can’t say I wasn’t thoroughly entertained, I still couldn’t help but feel like the film could’ve gone further; grimier, filthier. The film does such a great job at establishing the dread of the unknown threat, that by the time all the cards are in play, it does feel a tad like a missed opportunity. What we end up getting is certainly great, I just think there was a lot of potential here that feels squandered. 

Even with these few complaints, this is still shaping up to be a bonafide midnight movie, one where you get a bunch of people together to laugh and yell at the screen. It’s campy for sure, but don’t let that detract from the fact that this is still smartly made when it comes to it’s framing, composition, and especially its lighting. It knows how to play with its tone for the most part, and even somehow manages to juggle a timeline that jumps quite a bit. The performances are all great and the pacing never seems to slow down. I hate to dwell on what could have been, but you should certainly temper your expectations if you’re looking to be blown away by some left-field twist or big surprise.

Still don’t know why its called Barbarian.

Rating

(out of a possible 5 baby bottles)

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