By Jason Delgado
Barbarian, a new movie that is out in theaters only at the time of this writing, is an edge of your seat horror thrill ride, with suspense that builds due to fantastic writing and directing by Zach Cregger, along with a top-notch cast. This film features three different stories that intersect together (like a scary version of Pulp Fiction), culminating in some fun creepiness. Put simply, Barbarian is an instant horror classic. Director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World) had it right when he lauded the movie and stated that the less you know about it going in, the better.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, other than to reveal this general premise and to discuss some of the underlying themes of the film. Barbarian starts out with Tess (played wonderfully by Georgina Campbell) going to an Airbnb on a dark and rainy night in a “bad” neighborhood in Detroit, only to discover that there’s already a man named Keith (Bill Skarsgård, aka Pennywise from the remake franchise of It), staying in the home. This creates an awkward and potentially dangerous scenario. Does she trust the stranger and stay the night, or take her chances outside in her car?
A lot of the fun of this movie is in how it subverts expectations, which reminds me of what Scream did to so much success in the 90’s with its twists and meta-humor. That genre-bending fun is evident in the plot, what the general public may think about Detroit and neighborhoods like it, and for people who feel like they are victims of “cancel culture.” The set-ups and pay-offs are textbook examples of how to get the audience invested into the characters and the world that the film creates.
Justin Long (Galaxy Quest) also stars in Barbarian, with a character arc that plays on how the audience may feel about him from his past work. It’s all smartly done, with zig and zags in the script that make sense, for the most part. I will say that there is one head-scratching moment that audiences may question (someone at my theater verbally did after the movie was over), but the overall awesomeness of it all brings enough goodwill to be able to look past this one moment.
This movie was screened for audiences at San Diego Comic Con, and I can see why. It has images and scenarios that could cement the film into pop-culture, or at the very least, become a classic for horror fanatics. There were some laughs with my brother and his fiancé after the movie, discussing what elements of the movie could be in a Universal Studios Horror Nights maze if they made one based on Barbarian (which they really should do next year!).
I give Barbarian five out of five hot sauce packets. It’s so spicy that you won’t have enough (non-dairy) milk to put it out anytime soon! This movie makes a seriously lasting impression, but I believe that for most people, that will be a good thing!