Barbarian Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
What to do when the Airbnb home you booked, is already taken? A stranger opens the door & offers you shelter. Do you take it or leave?
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Director: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler, Jaymes Butler, Kate Nichols & Matthew Patrick Davis.
Run Time: 102 min.
US Release: 09 September 2022
UK Release: 28 October 2022
German Release: 10 December 2022 (Star on Disney+)
Reaching the end of the year, I have two further films to review. This little shocker was released in Germany a mere two days ago, under the Star channel on Disney+, which is the European version of Hulu. Barbarian did make a lot of noise among critics and lovers of the genre alike, being described as one of the best horror flicks of 2022. Unfortunately for German residents, it meant waiting for it to be released on a streaming platform by the end of the year. That said, it was absolutely worth it! So, grab a knife or a frying pan, as I lead you through the haunted house of horrors that is Barbarian…
A woman arrives at her Detroit Airbnb rental only to discover that it has been double-booked, with a stranger already inside. Against her better judgement, she takes the offer to stay the night, though soon discovers that the house is not what it seems.
Let me start off by saying, I never saw any of Zach Cregger-directed features. Right from the get-go, the opening envelops audiences in an atmosphere of discomfort, nothing feels safe with possible danger lurking around every corner. It is a tense sensation, which stretches throughout the entire runtime. Cregger explicitly proves that he knows how to wind up suspense, using it masterfully in this premise, which is peppered with so many red herrings throughout the first act, that it becomes impossible to predict what will happen next.
It uses also an unconventional form of storytelling, which separates the three acts from each other. This makes for a refreshing experience and gives the movie a unique fingerprint, that lets it stand out from the masses. All in all, the techniques utilised for the screenplay are fantastic, shrouding the overall plot in mystery.
Apart from that, the director/writer took inspiration from the non-fictional self-help book “The Gift of Fear”; specifically a passage that encourages women to trust their intuition and not to ignore the red flags that arise in day-to-day interactions with men. This became the basis for the horror flick, however, the setting of Detroit is also no coincidence. The city was chosen due to its degradation, as well as segregation from the rest of the U.S. It is run-down, ranking as the third most dangerous city in the United States. Setting the picture in that city, also gave the narrative the possibility to pick up the issues of homelessness.
The dialogue scripted for this shocker is somewhat quirky. Most of the characters seem to be unsure about how much information to give out, which leads to minimal information obtained during conversations, creating an uncomfortable distance between the viewer and the persons on screen.
This premise contains a whole bunch of good written characters, though I can’t really talk about most of them, as it would lead to spoilers. As such, I decided to keep this section short and talk about the performances.
Georgina Campbell is great as Tess Marshall, the lead who reaches her rental home only to find someone already living in it. Campbell effectively displayed all of Tess’ fears, as well as her discomfort. Tess herself is smart, mostly being cautious who or what to trust, however, she does at times let curiosity take over her judgement. She also comes of as a little distant, even for the audience, as she tries to protect herself.
Bill Skarsgård, who portrays Keith, the guy who double booked the rental with Tess. Skarsgård is charming and politie, though does have something mysterious about his character. AJ Gilbrided played by Justin Long, is an actor who has fallen on hard times, returning to Michigan to sell some of his properties. Justin Long is the perfect cast for this persona, as he looks likeable, but it soon becomes obvious that looks can be deceaving.
Jaymes Butler as Andre, the homeless man. A minor role in the narrative, Andre serves as an entry to show the deterioration of the city of Detroit, including all the people who lost their homes.
Camera-wise, director of photography Zach Kuperstein uses creative shot compositions, mixed with more traditional techniques of the genre, to create a great feeling of unease plus claustrophobia. The manipulation of light and shadow is cleverly utilised, as are the sudden cuts to hint at a new arc. This is also true of the colour palettes, which change between segments.
Makeup plus prosthetics are all practical, as are the couple of gory effects. There is little computer trickery used, but when raching for VFXs it is mostly used as a cinematographic tool.
The music, composed by Anna Drubich, plays a major part in setting the tone of the film. While it mostly gives of a strong threatening vibe, it can also sneak up on the audience. It is especially effective in the two/three jumpscares contained within the plot.
Verdict: With only a 4.5 million dollar budget, Zach Cregger managed to create one of the most intriguing horror feature of 2022. The story is multilayered, adding socio-economical issues such as run-down, segregation, as well as the growing homelessness issue in American cities. It also switches the primary antagonist in the third act, with the villain given a sympathetic background, while the supposedly not-so-bad is revealed to be far crueller, as double standards are uncovered. The suspense never ceases, using a unique storytelling component that hinders any sort of foreshadowing. The cast gives great performances, especially Georgina Campbell, as the main character. The cinematography is artistic, making full use of light plus shadow, as well as using different styles of colour palettes. Finally, the soundtrack is creepy, adding to the uneasy tone. All in all, this is a brilliant movie that should have been released in cinemas! Barbarian deserves an 8.0 out of 10!