A Raw and Visceral Trip through a Cold, Dark Place
Score 9/10 - Highly Recommended
Posted by Anthony DeRouen | December 15th, 2022
Warning: contains spoilers.
Barbarian (written and directed by Zach Cregger, marking his first feature-length work without his regular collaborator Trevor Moore) is a funhouse of horrors and cramped hallways, topped by societal and paternal traumas. You'll walk away feeling relieved the film is over, and that's good mark for a horror filmmaker. You may also ask, "just how in the hell did the owner not know about this basement?"
Georgina Campbell plays Tess with a welcome resourceful awareness, that comes into play right at the start when her Airbnb crib is already occupied by polite oddball Keith (Bill Skarsgård), justifiably on guard staying the night with a stranger. We instantly feel Keith may have an ulterior motive considering his performance and the way certain scenes are crafted. What we are ultimately witnessing is a variation of the narrative. Bill Skarsgård is certainty the killer, right? Maybe not.
Zach Cregger's use of slow tracking shots through the hallways is especially effective. The feeling of claustrophobia and the stark unknown is ever present, even when Tess is outside trembling in abject fear. We can feel her anxiety and brace for when she re-enters the basement.
Justin Long is a welcome surprise as a self-absorbed misogynistic lunkhead that owns the home. Justin Long belong in horror movies, his acting range and persona fits so well in the genre. Without disclosing the role Michael Patrick Davis plays, it deserves to be noted that his performance is exceptionally horrific and that the makeup and prosthetics department deserves recognition. Fans of Richard Brake will shout with glee when he makes a brief appearance.
The basement is a character in and of itself. We are giving a glimpse into how it came about, but you haven't seen this kind of panic-enduing enclosure since Buffalo Bill cut out the lights in Silence of the Lambs. You'll hate every trip the characters take in it and release that breath you didn't know you were holding when they leave.
And to fully enjoy Barbarian you have to submit yourself to the filmmaker's whims. He provides moments of quiet and comedy with redirection and sustained sequences of terror. When all is said and done you'll sit back in delight from the experience of quality cinematic horror post-Halloween Ends. That was a bitter pill many of us horror fans swallowed.