I hate bad horror movies, more than anything. Horror being my favorite genre never blended well with my disposition for film snobbery. Boring plots and overzealous violence only satisfy a small percentage of the genre faithful (no disrespect).
So when I started hearing word that Barbarian was actually good, with shades of Scream, Get Out, or Insidious I was skeptical but privately bursting with hope. Thankfully I wasn’t lied to, I brought fellow Bear Tommy Whitford along for the ride and we both left the film with jaws dropped and minds racing. (Tommy would proceed to walk out claiming that was his favorite movie in existence)
Barbarian is a 2022 American horror film written and directed by Zach Cregger. It is produced by Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules, and J.D. Lifshitz. The film stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. We see Campbell arrive at a destitute neighborhood in Detroit, all the houses besides her Airbnb in shambles and vacant. In the wee hours of night, with the weight of a heavy rain, Campbell finds Skarsgard already staying in her rental, double booked. Were given an awkward and unknowing scenario as the two agree to both stay in the rental, uncertain of one another.
However, this tension is merely a distraction. Eventually, we see the two become comfortable and learn that Skarsgard is certainly not the evil we are anticipating. The next day they both go about their business until Campbell returns to the house empty and ominous, eventually leading her to the basement where she finds a false door with an eerie hallway containing a desolate room with a camera and bed within. In a moment of levity and humor, which this film does so well, she simply echoes “Nope” down the hallway and leaves it alone until Skarsgard returns.
Upon his return, he is apprehensive about the concerns and panics of Campbell stating he just “needs to see it himself” (A true man). This is where we are thrown off the edge, without saying too much, it turns out there is a cave system hidden within the hallway. We can only hear the horrid screams of Skarsgard somewhere deeper and follow Campbell through her manic attempt at rescue. No spoilers, we never see Skarsgard again and Campbell is trapped in the cave but we get a glimpse at what I consider to be the most unsettling monster I had seen in the film.
That’s all the plot I feel I can share, Justin Long’s role is vital but his introduction and the turns within the film are not to be shared but know that this film does not let go of you.
I don’t know that I can say that this is my favorite horror film but I have more than pondered it. As scary and as uncomfortable as any great film in the genre, its adherence to pulling you out effectively with humor or empathy is unlike any attempt I’ve seen. Long Campbell and Skarsgard all deliver stellar performances, all being so ambiguous and multifaceted that even when presented with evidence of good and evil within each of them. You’re on your feet every second, you feel as unknowing and on edge as each of the characters even the villains of the film. You aren’t simply left on the whole time, this penultimate feeling is the bane of modern horror, fleeting and overdone. Barbarian is more like tubing (if you’ve been) at times slow and at others rapid and violent, but seldom do you not feel the current within this 107 min run time. The structure of this film I feel comfortable calling perfect, a solid runtime matches well with the story constantly unfolding and turning yet never losing viewers to the wind.
I don’t remember the last time I left a theater so full, not since I saw The Godfather at The Fox theatre back home in Atlanta in 2018 (big city elitist yeah I know).
I have developed a cynicism about horror and films like Barbarian alongside those such as Nope and The Babadook have reinvigorated me. I say this often but please go see this, if you never listen to me ever (wise) ignore that idea and please by the grace of all that’s evil and monstrous, see Barbarian.
Final Rating: 10/10 days of Rocky students not having internet.