Directed By: Zach Cregger
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, Justin Long, Richard Brake, Matthew Patrick Davis
Plot Summary: A woman staying at an Airbnb discovers that the house she has rented is not what it seems.
When you think of pulse pounding, nail biting horror, you probably don’t think of Zach Cregger. Cregger made a huge splash with his sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids You Know. While not his first stab at directing, it is his first foray into the horror genre. How did he do? Well, let’s say that it’s a movie that, despite some issues, has stuck with me long since the credits rolled.
The biggest asset of the film is how Cregger knows how to wonderfully toy with an audience’s expectations. Sure, this is done by expertly subverting audience expectations, but also, he does this by way of casting choices. From the very first minutes until the ending, I never felt totally safe. The tone established pretty early on is oppressive, and the brilliant camera choices by DP Zach Kuperstein (The Vigil, The Eyes of My Mother) go a long way in building and sustaining the tension. Scenes featuring characters going down long dark hallways are well paced and framed in ways that make things almost unbearably claustrophobic. The end result had me firmly gripped in icy cold suspense. For someone who has never crafted a horror film before, I was very impressed by how effective and adept he is at it. Cregger’s film also has a lot to say about topics that are as timely as it is engaging.
One of the biggest strengths of this film is its incredible cast. Georgina Campbell is tasked with doing a lot of heavy lifting in this film. She is our perspective character and has to juggle both physical and emotionally compelling scenes. Thankfully, she crushes it in a way that feels effortless. It’s a credit to her talent that, even when things in the film get rather intense and even a bit absurd (in a great way), she manages to keep her performance grounded and believable. The supporting cast is also a dream, which includes: Bill Skarsgard, Richard Brake, Matthew Patrick Davis and Justin Long. Long, who has always been a favorite actor of mine, plays wonderfully against type and, like Campbell, is able to find the nuances even when things get crazy. Everyone feels like they are on the same page with the material and watching these talented actors play off one another is a treat.
Having said that, I do feel that the overall themes and messages could have been a bit more thought out and taken further. It also brings up questions that are never answered, though only slightly hinted at. Though, the slightly underwritten elements were never distracting enough to hold it back from being an enjoyable outing. Further helping me shed some light was getting the chance to talk to Zach, who confirmed that, like the best movies, the message plays as background to a pulpy genre romp. Indeed, there is a lot of text and subtext that can be mined from the premise, but at the end of the day, its roots are firmly planted in 80’s horror. The practical effects are top notch here and really took me back to the glory days of the genre.
Zach Cregger took a very simple premise and with skill and keen direction crafts a skin crawling, tense and wholly engaging film. Barbarian is a timely, tense and scary as hell film. Do not watch alone.
Barbarian will be available in theaters beginning September 9, 2022, courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
Barbarian is a timely, tense and scary as hell film. Do not watch alone.
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.