Barbarian review: A different kind of horror

Barbarian is a horror movie from writer and director Zach Cregger. And it’s a bloody fun experience. I sat in the cinema loving every damn minute of it because I honestly didn’t know where it was going to go. And hell, it’s going to be difficult to review it without spoilers. I’ll try though.

barbarian tess

The film’s premise is a rather simple one. A girl arrives at her airbnb only to find it’s been double booked. The other occupant, a guy. Tess, played superbly by Georgina Campbell, and Keith (Bill Skarsgård), seem perplexed as to why this has happened. And we do to. Cregger plays with the camera in a way that makes us doubt the sincerity of Keith. Is he a good guy? Is he a murdering lunatic who wants to wear Tess’ face!?

barbarian dude 1

Well, this lingering shot will make you think he is a creep. He’s now explaining why he hasn’t opened the wine, and is almost insistent she drinks it? Alert! Wait, now he’s being tender and nice, maybe he’s not so bad after all. I loved this cat and mouse with our feelings. I was glad that I was sitting next to a group of 5 women in the cinema. Because I got to hear, from a women’s perspective, what was dodgy and what wasn’t. It certainly heightens one’s senses when you hear a bunch of people squeal when a character does something that might not be very sensible. Like going down into a basement or sleeping in a house with a stranger.

barbarian dude 2

It’s a horror, right. Right?

Barbarian plays with a lot of conventional horror elements, but it does so in a way that’s pretty damn fresh. It’s a thriller at first. Almost a ‘is he isn’t he going to kill her. And then suddenly bam! You’re into full horror territory. Barbarian is an absolute rollercoaster ride that I don’t want to ruin for you. It’s gory and it’s smart, very well acted and very funny.

I recall one moment of absolute shock in the cinema, people literally gasping, only to have them burst out laughing a second later. I questioned whether this was a good idea at first. We could have had a really poignant moment that we could dwell on. But I realised that the charm and uniqueness was in this back and forth. It made it original, even if it was using the same building blocks.

barbarian cover

There are not many horror movies I’d go back in to see, almost immediately. The Barbarian is one of those. It’s a funny and gory movie, but it also has deeper themes woven in. Themes of male abuse, patriarchy and victimhood. It’s a damn fine movie that I wish I could watch with my girlfriend, but she’d freak at the one or two jump scares. The tonal shift from about 1/3 in was very welcome and kept me wondering what the heck was happening.

I give The Barbarian a solid…


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