Star Rating:


Director: Zach Cregger

Actors: Bill Skarsgård, Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis

Release Date: Friday 28th October 2022

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 102 minutes

Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) is in Detroit for a job interview. When she arrives at her Airbnb, she finds Keith (Bill Skarsgard) in the same house. Tess finds herself stuck with nowhere else to stay, and agrees to stay in the same house with Keith. After an uneventful night, Tess returns to the house and finds a dark secret hidden beneath the house...

More than any other genre, horror has to work especially hard to get audiences on side. Being scared with an audience is the same as being made to laugh - it's something that happens instinctively and without any control, but when it doesn't happen, the silence is deafening. 'Barbarian' is a clever mixture of these two ideas, but what makes it really clever is how it utilises the audience's knowledge. There are multiple times when Tess, played with real conviction by Georgina Campbell, actively chooses the right option in a situation, and only chooses the wrong one out of mitigating circumstances or because she's a good person.

'Barbarian' is a movie that is best viewed with little or no preparation beforehand. It's a sparse enough script and idea, but it's got a lot to say about how men and women approach fear and threat, and more specifically, how they respond. When it moves to Justin Long's portion of the movie, it's in direct contrast with the slow-burning tension built up in Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgard's section. Where one has misdirection and atmosphere, Long's is far more exaggerated. In fact, Long's portion is closer to a gibbering horror-comedy in the vein of something like Ken Russell's 'Lair of the White Worm' or 'Evil Dead'.

Writer-director Zach Cregger's history as a sketch comedian and member of The Whitest Kids U' Know serves him well here, understanding that there's a thin line between horror and comedy and not being afraid to blend them together. Much of 'Barbarian' works because the audience is effectively enlisted into the story, questioning character motives and so on, but in actuality, they're being led by the nose in a circle. Cregger's confidence and command are apparent on screen and in the script, marking him out as a talent to watch in the future.

Where 'Barbarian' falls down, however, is that it ultimately ends up resolving itself in a pretty standard fashion with no real surprises. It's a shame because it's so keenly self-aware and smart up until about twenty minutes before the end. It may be that Cregger's script had simply written itself into a corner with nowhere else to go, but it does feel somewhat anti-climactic in comparison to what came it followed.

Still, 'Barbarian' is a savvy, witty horror-comedy and a perfect cinema trip for this time of year.