Movies & TV / Reviews

Barbarian Review

September 9, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
BARBARIAN Image Credit: 20th Century Studios
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Barbarian Review  

Directed By: Zach Cregger
Written By: Zach Cregger
Runtime: 102 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R

Georgina Campbell – Tess
Bill Skarsgård – Keith
Justin Long – AJ
Richard Brake – Frank

Just ahead of the Halloween season, 20th Century Studios’ Barbarian arrives in theaters. It is nice to see an entertaining horror romp receive a theatrical release this year. Most of the 20th Century Studios output for 2022 has gone straight to streaming, much to the detriment of multiple films. The theatrical format is the best way to experience Barbarian for the first time.

Comedian and actor Zach Cregger, best known for his work in shows such as The Whitest Kids U’Know and Wrecked, makes his feature film directorial debut here. Barbarian is a surprising, earnest first-time effort from Cregger. Barbarian is unpredictable, idiosyncratic, and unconventional, but in a good way.

The trailers and marketing material for Barbarian do not do the film justice, but that benefits the viewing experience. The problem in describing Barbarian is that sharing any details at all could spoil the experience. This is a film that is best viewed going in completely cold and ignorant of the plot with a packed audience ready for an entertaining horror experience. The story follows Tess (Campbell) arriving at a home rental for the night, but there is a mixup with the electronic booking. After arriving, the house rental is already occupied by another individual, Keith (Skarsgård). The house has been double-booked. The plot does not unfold as expected, but it soon becomes a living nightmare.

Cregger presents a strong, assertive vision for his first feature film. As a storyteller, he clearly understands what the audience expects, and that is when the curveballs fly. The movie takes unpredictable left turns. However, that is the strength of Barbarian. It does not follow the typical horror movie cookie-cutter plot of a hapless victim going somewhere and all hell breaking loose. Cregger did not want his story to rest on the typical laurels of expected horror movie tropes.

Cregger’s background in comedy also serves the overall narrative. Between the ratcheting tension, a few scenes have a comedic edge that brings an oddly unique type of tension to the story.

Georgina Campbell is great as the story’s emotional center and protagonist. Campbell’s Tess has probably seen a few horror movies herself and knows how these stories go. She is smart enough to find some creative workarounds. Campbell’s believability and charisma were impressive, and her performance as Tess is a breakout role for her.

The rest of the central cast put in natural, believable performances that benefit the film’s overall viewing experience, especially Justin Long and Bill Skarsgård. But again, saying anything about the actor’s characters would be way too revealing and tipping way too many hands. Barbarian is simply a case of the less the audience knows, the better.

Coupled with Cregger’s committed direction and gripping story, Zach Kuperstein also delivers very strong cinematography. The sequences involving dark tunnels, and the darkness of the neighborhood setting add to Barbarian‘s eerie ambiance. Cregger and Kuperstein collaborate together for some exceptional visual storytelling as the nightmarish situation Tess finds herself in unfolds.

The main drawbacks emerge when the film starts throwing in a few too many unbelievable roadblocks. As the plot progresses, there are moments where the film begins to lose its sense of credulity. The suspension of disbelief is nearly broken when goofy, awkward, and clunky moments ensue. These are the weaker moments of Barbarian where suddenly, the film acts way too clever in its delivery when the execution is lacking. Parts of the story play as incredibly fresh and unique for a horror movie experience. Others are way too redundant or borderline ridiculous.

Regardless, Barbarian is a fun, unique horror movie and an exceptional first-time effort from a filmmaker who has just made his first movie. With a first outing this good, it will be interesting to see what Cregger delivers in the future.

Barbarian arrives in theaters on Sept. 9. Horror fans are advised to experience the film with a packed house and enjoy the ride. Barbarian presents the type of entertaining theatrical experience that is one of the best parts about going to the movies.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Zach Cregger's Barbarian is a fun, entertaining, and unconventional horror movie. It has a fresh premise and unique execution that is satisfying and genuinely surprising. Cregger does impressive work for his first film, and it is anchored by strong performances. Some weaker, goofier elements are where the plot and premise start to err. However, this is easily a film worth checking out in theaters for the first time, and it would be preferable with a packed house and an audience ready for some scary fun.