Barbarian is one of the wildest horror films in years from its combination of subgenres to full-throttle approach to unapologetic exploitation themes

Barbarian Review


Barbarian hits North American theaters on Friday, Sept. 9.

Zach Cregger's Barbarian exists to be abrasive and uncomfortable. It wants to eviscerate audience boundaries and bathe in their mortified gasps. Cregger architects raucously horrific sequences that embrace exploitation and introduce detestable characters to serve over-the-top just desserts. Barbarian can feel like two different movies stitched together with Leatherface's craftsmanship — one an accomplished thriller with shocks abound, the other a clumsier approach to Hollywood cancel culture — but at the end of the massacre, it's a savage commentary that properly incinerates comfort zones.
At the onset, Barbarian addresses modern companies like Airbnb and Uber that depend wholly on blind trust between users and either renters or drivers. Tess (Georgina Campbell) and Keith (Bill Skarsgård) are individuals who've had the same rental double-booked outside Detroit in a dilapidated, impoverished neighborhood. Without options, Tess and Keith share the night as Tess rightfully approaches the situation with buckets of apprehension — despite Keith's assurances that he's another good guy. The established gendered tension is authentic as Keith attempts hospitable gestures like inviting Tess inside or pouring her tea. Cinematography conversely accentuates Keith's looming outline in doorways or Tess locking every door whenever in a new room. It's only the beginning of Tess' nightmare after discovering a secret door, hidden bedrooms, and a tunnel system beneath the home.
At its best, Barbarian uses quaint suburban dressings to hide an otherwise abhorrent underbelly from whence thunderous horror entertainment slithers. Cregger's screenplay is rather brazen in pacing and throttles forward with awe-striking surprises that you don't see that often in today's horror releases. A meaner-than-Myers streak propels the evolution of Cregger's story and keeps us enthralled because of how abruptly chaos descends or how swiftly the narrative pivots. Barbarian convinces us that anything can — and will — happen, which serves its genre accents magnificently as everything from kidnapper traumas to creature-feature craziness (shout out to The Hills Have Eyes) morph tones by the minute.
Then Justin Long's television director "AJ" is introduced, and searing commentaries presume violent punishments are a fair trade for divisive thematic introductions of "he said, she said" politics.
Appropriately, Barbarian advocates for nothing in AJ's personality nor does it demand you sympathize with pitiful protagonists. Cregger doesn't make a spiritual Dashcam successor that's all bad-faith bluster. It's hard to articulate peak and valley criticisms because anything beyond trailer reveals shouldn't be spoiled. AJ's there for us to hate, and we do — vehemently — since storytelling beats revel in his misogyny and despicableness with a heavy-handedness that can become an overt distraction. Barbarian has nothing new to say about #MeToo movements and believing women, yet it also unleashes repugnant catharsis unto Weinstein and Ratner idolizers. Cregger fearlessly weaponizes traumas that will undoubtedly drive away audiences who won't want to stomach such spotlights. Still, Barbarian isn't here to grant passes or shoehorn taboos without fulfilling bloodthirsty judgment — there are risks with writing a movie like Barbarian, which seemingly doesn't bother Cregger.
Barbarian is barbaric, comedically brutal, and the antithesis of contemporary horror trends.
So wages a psychotic battle for survival that splices multiple horror subgenres, from serial killer thrillers to beastly cave-dwelling escapes. There's a scumminess and repulsive sleaze as Tess encounters unbelievable terrors that recall everything from [REC] to The Descent, as Barbarian keeps daring you to let your guard collapse. It's the kind of horror that spits on the audiences, rubs our faces through toxic muck, and rolls the credits with no apology — which is morbidly refreshing? Apologies for the phrasing, but Barbarian is the most royally [email protected]*ked up horror flick in some time and revels in its grotesque presentations. The danger feels electric, and the effects from deformed creature costumes to mutilated bodies transport us back to 2000s titles about hulking evils, violent demises, and all the ickiest feelings.
Along the way, Cregger's screenplay does take swings that favor unpredictability over structural stability. Tess' anxiety-riddled introductory segment about Keith's suspicious nice guy routine is just that, an opening that's smash-interrupted by AJ's takeover in the following act. Storytelling jumps time passages forward and backward, focusing on characters in diverse periods that chronicle a Detroit suburb's whitewashed beginnings to ramshackle and impoverished becomings. Some might say Barbarian incites without insight by the way AJ handles his "unfair" situation, while others will struggle with Cregger's bounce-about execution that's like a rollercoaster with no safety bar. It's all valid, but that's also why others will adore the renegade and full-throttle nature of Barbarian — the thrill of holding on for dear life.
Best Horror Movies So Far In 2022<b>X</b>
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Ti West’s X is as glorious and malevolent a return to horror features that anyone could ask for from the indie filmmaker turned prolific television director. IGN’s official review gave X an 8 out of 10, which I come in a little higher on myself. West’s incorporation of countless influences from Giallo to 70s sleazeploitation makes for an artfully chaotic brand of contemporary slasher. It’s handily one of A24’s better horror films, filled with gratuitous but oh-so-slick gore and all the sweltery southern terrorization in films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
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Performances across the board help make X so memorable. It’s Jenna Ortega’s year in horror without any question, but she’s only one piece to X’s blood-splattered puzzle. Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, and more play above-and-beyond parts as pornographers trying to elevate their medium. West has loads of fun comparing horror to pornography in terms of public perception, while characters are granted agency beyond easy stereotypes. What’s not to like about a sex-positive slasher that swings a big ego and delivers as promised?<b>The Black Phone</b>
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Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill strike horror gold again with The Black Phone. IGN’s official review dials in a 9 out of 10, as Amelia concludes, “The Black Phone mixes the supernatural with relatable horrors in ways that will leave you both terrified and hopeful.” It’s that hopefulness that I wasn’t expecting because Ethan Hawke’s child kidnapper “The Grabber” sure is a nasty son-of-a-gun. Child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw play their parts so tremendously well, it's impossible not to leave thinking the kids will be alright.
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Direction goes a long way for The Black Phone because Derrickson shows a confident and transformative command of The Grabber’s basement. It feels massive when Thames’ victim searches around for escape clues and claustrophobic when The Grabber comes downstairs to enhance sensations of chilly isolation. Add in a few paranormal scares and killer mask designs by Tom Savini, and you’ve got a definitive crowd-pleasing horror film worth acclaim. Not like that’s anything new for the team behind Sinister.<b>Nope</b>
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Jordan Peele’s no stranger to “Best of” horror lists between Get Out and Us — and Nope is no different. It’s Peele having a blast with Twilight Zone influences on a Speilbergian sci-fi scale. We don’t toss around the term “Event Horror” anymore (used to describe blockbuster horror flicks that devour the screen) but Peele has become a champion for such spectacle filmmaking now for a third time with Nope. Audiences will find an immensely entertaining UFO mystery with laughs and chills — but that’s just on the surface.
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Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun explore the nasty histories of minorities being tossed aside and forgotten by Hollywood. Our ugly relationship with spectacles is put on display while Peele still manages to keep us in awe of the overarching alien threat. Peele operates outside the more overt social commentaries of Get Out and Us, without ditching a directorial voice that’s arguably the most unique in contemporary horror cinema. In Peele we trust, and there’s a reason IGN gave the film a 9 out of 10 in our official review.<b>Scream</b>
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Radio Silence’s Scream sequel does right by franchise creators Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. It’s a requel that plays into all the tropes and decades-later revamps that have tried tirelessly to revive franchises gasping for air. IGN’s Amelia Emberwing gave the film a 9 out of 10, saying, “All of the performances are pitch-perfect, the kills are gnarly, and no version of toxic fandom is left unmocked.” I agree with those words, since the film so lovingly pays homage to multiple threads from Williamson’s original script with all the sharp genre commentary Craven loved to exploit.
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The year of “Jenna Ortega: Our Scream Queen” continues since she stars alongside Melissa Barrera as slasher surviving sisters, meeting franchise favorites like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox. There’s no chip on the shoulders of Radio Silence as they direct through another massacre that’s the most violent and relentless to date, yet comedy thrives as Jasmin Savoy Brown becomes the Meeks we deserve. Scream (2022) channels Craven, guts “Horror Twitter” with scathing commentary against gatekeepers, and feels comfortably at home in the franchise. That’s all Scream fans can ask for, shake ups and all.<b>The Innocents</b>
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In my IGN review for The Innocents, I conclude, “The Innocents is a slow-burner that stars a majority small-fry cast and yet is far more poised and impactful than those descriptions suggest.” What’s so stunning about this dark Norwegian take on children with superpowers is how mature the film treats its subjects. There’s never a desire to water-down dire consequences because wee younglings are in charge. If anything, the screenplay amplifies concepts around children not understanding the harm they can cause and how quickly some are forced to grow up.
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It’s a playground metaphor for unchecked aggression and the corruption of unlimited powers. Kids start levitating rocks and realizing they’re far more special than their parents ever imagined — both a blessing and a curse. Horror elements interfere when one child uses his abilities in hurtful ways, as the other powered children wonder how to stop his rein of terror. It’s an impactful film about choices and how quickly humans succumb to their worst impulses, made immensely more impactful given the age of all players involved.<b>Watcher</b>
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I liked Watcher a tad more than IGN’s Amelia Emberwing, whose 7 out of 10 review says, “The story will linger too long for some, but anyone willing to stick with it is in for a treat.” Chloe Okuno’s feature debut needs nothing more than a woman abroad and the man whose eyes are always locked on said woman’s figure. It’s highlighting horrors of the outside world, as society repeatedly tells women they’re perfectly safe and to stop overreacting, right before another innocent life is taken by some dude who stalked another innocent soul home late one night.
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Maika Monroe stars as the American wife of a businessman who relocates to Bucharest, Romania. Even without Burn Gorman’s insidious neighbor who ends up being the “Watcher,” Okuno does well to accentuate the loneliness of a partner doing right by their spouse through sacrifice and discomfort. Then the social commentary and voyeuristic unrest take over as both Maika and Burn do their best on the respective sides of an invasive, grossly vulnerable stalker scenario that uses reality as the utmost impetus for horror cinema. Why create imaginary monsters when our lives are filled with real ones?
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Donato

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