Barbarian is the Strongest Kick-Off to the Horror Season Possible
During the Fall, you can always expect about a handful of horror films to drop because they are easy financial wins for studios. I, myself, am a huge horror fan but I realize this when the season starts to roll around and we get sequels to series that should have been left in the grave. But every so often, we get an original horror film that subverts those expectations. Barbarian is truly its own unique monster movie that I never saw coming. Every twist and turn had me going “oh shit” out loud in the theatre or laughing with the rest of the audience. This was the first horror film I’ve seen in a theatre full of people since the beginning of the pandemic and it was an experience I will keep near and dear to my horror heart.
Barbarian is about a young woman (Georgina Campbell) who books an Airbnb outside of Detroit in one of the abandoned neighborhoods. Turns out the place has been double booked and a man (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there. I won’t tell you more than that because this movie goes places. I highly advise you to avoid trailers or any spoiler filled reviews of the film because it’s something you want to experience with the rest of the theatre. This review will be spoiler-free because I want you to see this movie.
I avoided trailers for Barbarian because the poster’s made me want to see it as soon as I could. That led to me finding out the film was written and directed by Zach Cregger 5 minutes before the film began. Cregger has appeared in many tv shows and films over the years but this is his second feature film directing outing. The first was Miss March which I also saw in theatres. Zach was on a show called The Whitest Kids U Know which I watched religiously growing up on Fuze then IFC then in Youtube links. It was the only show my mother ever forbid us to watch in our house, she even went so far to parent lock the channels. I bring this up because the show had a unique humor to it from the group who worked on the series. That humor thrives in Barbarian. For as brutal, horrifying, and dark the film is… the entire theatre was nearly in tears laughing at certain scenes. It truly measures up to any horror comedy before it and in some places it goes further. Cregger’s unique humor never diverts you away from the fear in the film but it only strengthens it. It side steps what you think is going to happen by making you laugh because you quickly are returned to gripping your seat.
While the writing and story of Barbarian are fantastic, the directing and track shots featured in the film are still filling my mind even days out from seeing it. The Director of Photography Zach Kuperstein and Cregger have some truly exquisite framing shots in the film. There is one sequence in the film where the camera follows a character through the entire sequence that is just unlike anything I’ve seen in a reveal scene in horror. The use of light and pure darkness strengthens so much of the film. In particular there is a dim purple light in Barbarian that is going to stick in my mind for a very long time. The visual director Ashim Ahuja makes everything feel much more visceral through so much of this film. I truly want nothing more than to gush over their choices on how we see the characters in pinnacle points of the film but I can’t reveal too much.
Barbarian is scored by Anna Drubich who recently scored Werewolves Within and Fear Street: 1994. I am of the belief that a score can make or break a horror film but Drubich’s work speaks for itself. It’s an incredible score that accompanies the film that helps moves tension in scenes incredibly well.
Without spoilers, the costume designer Kiril Naumov and the special effects make up artist Alexandrina Dermendzhiyska deserve a awards for what they have done to this film and to my nightmares. Bravo.
Getting to see Barbarian in a theatre with people yelling at the screen and being so alive during the film made the experience so much better. Good horror films illicit response. I want to hear people yell at the characters for doing something stupid. There were so many times in the film that my crowd was laughing, cheering, or screaming at the characters as I mentioned before. I haven’t felt a crowd having so much fun since opening night of The Conjuring. Barbarian is a horror film that deserves any accolades that comes its way. I hope we see more from this team in the ways of horror because we need fresh stories like this.