“Barbarian” is a horror film written and directed by Zach Cregger, known for his comedic background in The Whitest Kids U’ Know. With an unsettling premise and a talented cast, Cregger delivers a rollercoaster of fear and suspense. Although the film occasionally stumbles with its plot conveniences, it compensates with its artistic choices and atmospheric intensity.
Table of Contents
Unsettling Vulnerability and Mysterious Secrets
The movie starts with a relatable nightmare scenario—a double-booked Airbnb. Tess, played excellently by Georgina Campbell, finds herself in an uncomfortable situation when she arrives at a secluded house in Detroit, already occupied by a sleepy tenant named Keith (Bill Skarsgård).
Cregger skillfully plays with the optics of vulnerability, making the audience empathize with Tess. As the story progresses, the exploration of the basement and the house’s hidden secrets add to the mounting dread. The film offers visceral and wacky reveals, despite some occasional lapses in the plot’s pacing.
Impressive Casting Choices
One of the film’s unsettling elements is the inclusion of Bill Skarsgård as Keith, the other Airbnb tenant. Skarsgård, known for his role as Pennywise the Clown in “It,” brings an eerie presence to his character, creating an atmosphere of unease.
His imposing figure and circular eyes make every interaction nerve-wracking, leaving the audience wondering about his true intentions. Skarsgård’s performance is particularly compelling in a standout scene that answers some of the film’s lingering questions.
Justin Long’s Slick Creep
Justin Long joins the cast as AJ, a Hollywood figure entangled in a scandal. Long portrays AJ’s self-centered and insincere nature with expertise, adding a layer of dark comedy to the film.
While “Barbarian” could benefit from more comic relief, Long’s portrayal of the slick creep becomes one of the movie’s strongest assets. The choices made by the characters play a crucial role in driving the narrative, and Long’s performance stands out as a solid construction within the story.
Artistic Ambitions and Atmospheric Intensity
“Barbarian” may not introduce strikingly new elements, and its portrayal of a decaying Detroit draws comparisons to “Don’t Breathe.”
Nevertheless, Cregger’s artistic impulses make the film a bold curiosity. The movie exhibits a compelling instinct for abrupt cuts and shifts in time and space, allowing the viewer moments to breathe while immersing them in various life stories.
The inclusion of different aspect ratios and extensive shots by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein adds to the film’s thick atmosphere. The title itself, “Barbarian,” resonates as a metaphorical house of mirrors, reflected in the unsettling score by Anna Drubich.
Occasional Plot Conveniences
While “Barbarian” excels in creating disquieting darkness, it falls short in maintaining airtight cleverness throughout the first two acts. The film sometimes relies on convenient decisions that feel forced, sacrificing the believability of the characters’ behavior. Despite this flaw, Cregger’s direction manages to keep the audience engaged with the ominous atmosphere, making it a gripping experience, especially when viewed in a theater.
Learn more: Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time
“Barbarian” is a wild and dark horror thriller that captivates the audience with its intense atmosphere and talented cast. Zach Cregger’s directorial choices, along with strong performances by Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long, create a sense of unease that lingers.
While the film occasionally succumbs to plot conveniences and a desire for over-the-top craziness, its disquieting darkness and artistic ambitions make it a noteworthy addition to the horror genre. Brace yourself for a heart-pounding experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat.