Barbarian ★★★★

I imagine this will get some backlash cos it's in danger of being over-hyped, but if you have reasonable expectations (or better yet, no expectations), it will deliver. It's a bit like an old school ghost train ride at the funfair - goofy as hell, but still capable of giving you plenty of jolts along the way. It lives and dies by its accumulated reveals, and the direction of travel is gonna be just too silly for some to swallow, but I get the feeling writer/director Zach Cregger knows what he's about - it's full of tonal whiplash, and I'm quite sure that's intentional. It's a throwback to the pre-A24 era of horror and all of the grimdark metaphorical trauma that entails, to stuff like Elm Street, when full-throttle scares and campy comedy could happily co-exist. Unlike a lot of love letters to the 70s and 80s, it doesn't signal its virtues through obvious means like period-appropriate score and bi-sexual lighting, it's more evident in the structure, and just the overall feel; the font used for the credits also clues you in to the kind of territory its shooting for.

There's a comic book vibe about the whole thing, from the appealingly larger than life performances from the main trio of Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long, to the editing - especially the seamless transition at one point from the dark interior of the house to the street as it was 40 years ago, before it went to hell in a handbasket - a Bulgarian American Dream of gleaming green manicured lawns, neatly parked family cars and white picket fences. It even finds time for a little dig at the routine ineffectiveness of the cops along the lines of 'you can lead the force to water...'; as always, it's left to the resourceful Tess to solve her own problems. Many ludicrous things happen. The plot's probably got more holes than a block of Emmental, but this isn't a horror film that asks you to take it seriously, it just wants to give you a good time; a few good scares and a few good laughs to send you into the night. It definitely becomes more predictable and tropey in the last act, but up to that point, it's hard to second guess what's coming round the corner - whether you'll be clenching your fists or chuckling at the audacity of its logic-riding bullshit.

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