Barbarian ★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.


So fucking fun. That's my experience now having seen this little killer of a horror film twice in the span of one weekend. Let's start with the structure, which nimbly avoids any drawn-out speechifying and eagerly adjusts the audience's expectations throughout. The first act, leading up to the reveal of the motherly surprise in the basement catacombs, is based on a mix of the traditions of domestic thrillers and other modern films like Don't Breathe, Hush etc. The surface layer is a guessing game of assumptions and preconceived notions between Tess and Keith. Our predictions as spectators are constantly being thwarted in Barbarian, but they always contribute to its wild detours. Not knowing any spoilers for the first watch is so important for a movie like this. The movie really had me thinking: is Keith evil? Is he working with someone else? I can only be honest and say that a 'Castle Freak' situation wasn't at the top of my prediction list, and that's one reason why Zach Cregger's film is so exciting.

A hard cut to black from a ghastly dungeon nightmare to the sunny California coast isn't simply a re-calibration for the audience, but it's also a genuinely playful step to unlocking the broader canvas of the narrative, and the rest of the film follows suit. You're always on the edge of your seat. It's packed with various timely social threads that are given just the right amount of development before allowing the midnight madness energy of the premise to flourish. It wants to scare the shit out of you and make you laugh, first and foremost. The slimy violence and grimy energy could've hit a bit harder in certain instances, and I do think it loses steam in the final stretch, but these are minor complaints in comparison to the thrill of studio horror finally having some bite to match its bark.

Justin Long absolutely owns the scumbag role.

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