Barbarian ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

BARBARIAN escalated quickly from “have you heard about this horror movie? Sounds intriguing” to “wow did you know one of the guys from Whitest Kids You Know is directing a horror movie?” to “YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS HORROR MOVIE AND GO IN COMPLETELY BLIND.” Indeed, I felt even more compelled to see this on opening week for fears of spoilers than I even did for NOPE. The great trailer introduced a classic setup but promised much unseen. Perhaps what appealed most from the hype was that it would be something you wouldn’t see coming.

And that is true for several reasons. BARBARIAN is far from perfect. Chiefly, it folds in on itself a few too many times for what is ultimately a fairly straightforward reveal and it becomes a little too enamored with its own fireworks. But even with those caveats, one just has to be impressed about how much this changes up stylistically and ends in a place that not only plot wise but tonally you just absolutely weren’t expecting. After all, how could I possibly dislike a movie that’s THE CALLER up front and SPLICE/DRAG ME TO HELL (Justin Long being here is not a coincidence) out back.

The opening section is a pretty perfectly executed extended horror sequence that clues you to the craziness to come by suddenly escalating into graphic violence. Even if the jerking between different sections is too distancing, one kinda has to be in awe that a first time director (solo anyways) known primarily for slapstick comedy writing, would take on and execute so many different styles. When we get to the Richard Brake (terrifying as always) section and suddenly it’s an intensely shot close POV macabre period piece, you really do just have to go that is a CHOICE.

So the thing of it is, even if you can pinpoint issues and question how much this will work on rewatch compared to the initial viewing, that initial viewing was just such a blast end to end. I truly never knew what was coming next in the immediate sense, it was so escalatingly bonkers that you leaned in, and generally so suspenseful that the whole crowd at the theatre got into it (my favorite audience comment being when Long wondered aloud “am I a bad person?” a lady in the corner went “Yes!”). There’s also something transgressive about how this motions towards various blunt social messages throughout, as has become counterproductively common in indie horror, only to reveal them as mostly misdirects with the point of the film not being much more than freaking you out. Was this the next great 2022 horror alongside WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR, NOPE, and X? No. But if you’re at all a horror fan, you really do have to go see this. And above all else, I cannot wait to see what Zach Cregger does next.

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