If you’re looking for a rush of pure horror intensity then Zach Cregger’s freakishly intense Barbarian is the film that will send you into the abyss of utter nightmares.
A young woman discovers the rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger. Against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night but soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.
In his feature film debut, comedian turned writer/director Zach Cregger takes audiences into the sinister and freakish horror ride of Barbarian. And this picture will have you screaming. Boldly original in its conception, and scares, Barbarian is a film that subverts the trappings of the horror genre for its purpose, and the resulting picture takes audiences for a hell of a ride. While I don’t want to dive into the narrative too deeply, as Barbarian should be enjoyed in one single hit, Cregger begins his story as one type of narrative before spinning it into something else entirely. And it works. The jump scares are horrendously scary, and there’s a morbid creep factor to this picture which is sure to get under your skin.
Barbarian finds a unique place within the horror genre as it takes what we know, subverts it, and then uses it to toy with its audiences for a viewing experience that will have you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Right from its opening frame, the terror is dialled up and with each passing moment that terror and dread build out for the audience. Cregger uses the trappings and plot points of what audiences have come to know of the horror genre against them, and this is a film whose characters are very self-aware. Through well-crafted plotting and some genius casting, Barbarian pulls the rug out from underneath its audience, and when the shocks hit this film takes a terrifying 360-degree turn that you certainly weren’t expecting, and you’ll be in a constant state of fear for the rest of the film.
Cast in the lead role of aspiring filmmaker Tess Marshall is up-and-coming actress Georgina Campbell, and her performance in Barbarian marks her out as a talent to keep a clear eye on. In her portrayal of Tess, Campbell is the way by which the audience finds their way into the fiendish narrative of Barbarian, and her sense for portraying terror leads to a very unnerving watch. One of the key themes of the film is related to intuition, and Campbell’s Tess faces a very real test that completely has you on edge. This use of the exploration of the subconscious and its interaction in our lead characters’ actions gives Barbarian a very different kind of edge.
Also, cast in Barbarian is veteran 1990s horror star and long-time comedian Justin Long as AJ Gilbride, a C-grade sitcom star who finds himself in the same horror maze as Tess. And Long is an absolute scene-stealer in the role. While the less that is said about AJ the better, let’s just allude to the fact that he’s an A-grade prick, and he’s a definite spanner in the plot of Barbarian. Long is flawless in his portrayal of a character who is opposite to anything he’s ever played before, and he gets to stretch out his acting chops with this loathsome character. Barbarian is one of the most original and tightly plotted cinema experiences of the year, and Long’s inclusion dials up the entertainment of this cinema experience, and he’s damn wild in the part.
Let it be known that Barbarian is FUCKING SCARY! For horror fans who are seeking some serious scares, well they’ll damn well get it with this movie. Whatever you think this film may be, well, guess again, because it’s sharp as a razor, and its horror elements will freak you the hell out. It’s a film that’s made for the dark, and its unsettling elements and shocking jump scare moments will have you leaping out of your seat. Its pace and agility keep the audience on edge the whole way through and Barbarian delivers one hell of a shock with its conclusion.
Barbarian is a radically different horror cinema experience, and whether you’re a veteran of midnight movies, or are just feeling brave, and want to see if you can sit through the scariest film of the entire year, you’ll be certain to have one hell of a time with this picture.
Image: 20th Century Studios