Directed by Zach Cregger
Written by Zach Cregger
Starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, Justin Long, Richard Brake
Release Date September 9th, 2022
In theaters only
Barbarian lives up to the hype. The movie that has used audience reaction footage as its main marketing image, creating a strong amount of buzz without giving away the shocking twists, is as good as those audience reactions shots indicate. Written and directed by former The Whitest Kids U Know star Zach Cregger, the combination of old school scares and modern, outlandish humor, comes together brilliantly. That's not to say that Barbarian is a laugh riot. Rather, the laughs are flawlessly in place as a release valve for the tense and exciting horror movie thrills.
Barbarian stars Georgina Campbell as Tess Mitchell, a young and ambitious documentary filmmaker who has come to Detroit to interview for a job. Tess has rented an Air BnB but there is a problem, someone else has also rented this home. Alexander Skarsgard plays Keith, a nice enough, seemingly normal guy, who claims to have rented the home via a different home rental app. Being that it is late at night in a bad part of Detroit, Keith invites Tess to take the bedroom and stay the night while he sleeps on the couch. The two proceed to have a pretty fun night until Tess heads to bed.
In the middle of the night, Tess is awakened by the bedroom door opening and someone sneaking away. She suspects Keith, of course but can clearly see him asleep and in the midst of a jarring nightmare. The following day after Keith has left and Tess has had a successful interview, Tess returns to get her things only to find a strange door sitting open in the house., The door leads into an ancient basement and Tess can't help but go have a look. She becomes trapped when the door shuts and is left to wait for Keith to come back and free her, if he can.
In the meantime, Tess makes a horrifying discovery, there is a whole series of tunnels leading out of the basement and into a sub-basement. One of the rooms can only be described as a murder room. There is only a bed, a video camera pointing at the bed, and a bucket that can only exist in nightmares. Further down this disturbing rabbit hole are rusty cages with ancient food bowls inside, and another, even more terrifying room covered in soiled bedsheets. Disturbingly playing on an ancient VHS Television in the room is a looping tape of a woman giving breast feeding instructions.
From here we jump to Hollywood where television star A,J Gilbride has received some very bad news. A co-star on his new television pilot is accusing him of sexual assault. Of course, this means the Pilot is dead and with it A.J's career. He may even be facing jail time. Desperate for cash, A.J is reminded of one of his only remaining assets, a house in Detroit that he's leased and rented out to make a little extra cash. Now he hopes to sell the home to pay for his legal defense. No points for guessing that the home in Detroit is the same home where Georgina and Keith have found that hidden and completely terrifying tunnel.
I have truly spoiled nothing about Barbarian. There are twists and turns in this brilliant horror thriller that it is best to experience for yourself. I loved the ways in which Zach Cregger kept creating one outlandish idea after another. The pace of the film is ingenious as it weaves scares and outrageous nervous laughter in just the right measure. Justin Long is especially good within this structure as he takes us on a shocking and horrifying rollercoaster of emotions. Watch for his best scene late in the movie set inside of a rusted out water tower. It is genuinely the best work of Long's career.
Another impressive aspect of Barbarian is the clever and exciting camerawork. Director Cregger and cinematographer Zach Kuperstein pull off several terrific visuals. My favorite comes as Tess is trapped in the basement and looking out of a locked basement window. The framing of the shot, the quick pull away motion of the camera, creates an absurd and yet frightening visual that I just loved. The film also uses darkness incredibly well to create scares. The tunnels under this house are exceptionally well used and the darkness illuminated by broken flashlights and weak cellphone lights, is perhaps not anything new in the horror genre but it is nevertheless well used in Barbarian.
Barbarian has a terrific cast, a great script and direction, a strong visual style and all of that combines to make one heck of a great horror movie. I really loved Barbarian. I was skeptical of the audience footage hype as terrible movies have used this marketing strategy just as effectively to hide deeply flawed movies. The Paranormal Activity sequels come to mind, a long with the aggressively awful found footage movie, The Devil Inside. Thankfully, there is no such bait and switch here, no attempt to hide anything. Barbarian is a movie more than good enough to earn those terrified audience reactions.
Barbarian is in theaters nationwide as of September 9th, 2022. You can find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews, including my spite filled 2012 review of The Devil Inside, on my archive blog, SeanattheMovies.Blogspot.com. Consider following me on Twitter at PodcastSean for my main feed and at SeanattheMovies for the archive Twitter. You can also hear me talking about movies every week on the Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast on your favorite podcasting app. If you've enjoyed what you have read consider subscribing to my work here on Vocal. You can also pledge to support my writing or send a one time tip to help support my work.
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