Review: Barbarian to Become a New Horror Classic

Gustavo Damian Danemann Soto, Editor-In-Chief

   A rainy night in Detroit. You arrive, exhausted, to your cozy Airbnb and carefully follow the host’s instructions, only to find that the key to the front door is gone. A flood of unresponsive phone calls and desperate door knocks later, a shy, awkward young man opens the door. It appears the host double-booked the place, and the best option is for you to stay for the night. But is this man who he says he is? Is there something wrong with this house?

And so begins Barbarian, a descent into any short-rental guest’s worst nightmare, one brimming with unexpected turns, palpable tension, and just enough self- awareness to announce itself as a new contemporary horror classic.

Like many great hair-raisers, Director Zach Cregger’s solo feature film debut is best experienced without the smallest ounce of knowledge of what’s to come. With brilliant editing choices that allow for equal intrigue and disorientation, the director ensures that you are never ahead. Just when you think you have figured out the film, there comes Cregger once again to pull the rug right from under the audience. Even when the characters make the most questionable of decisions, nothing nears true implausibility, with smart winks at the “everyone is a nutcase” horror trope.

   With a nonlinear timeline, it would be easy for the film to lose its audience or struggle to build tension. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The story’s precisely planned structure allows for a more challenging, and therefore, satisfying puzzle to solve. The camerawork cleverly captures the nauseating geography of the environment, constantly creating bucketloads of tension with the help of the detailed sound design. Yet Cregger never opts for cheap scares, instead patiently waiting for one’s fear rate to once again drop to then unleash a sucker punch of terror.

The film starts lagging in an attempt to include the tricky spectrum of gender politics while adding dashes of humor after the first major reveal. Though this combination could have been handled infinitely worse, the story’s attempt at a social consciousness ends up having little to offer to the conversation as a whole. The humor may at times represent its stabs at double standards in an effective way, yet for a chunk of the runtime, it slices the picture’s effectiveness in the horror department. Thankfully, once the third act kicks in, the commentary loses its initial clunkiness, tying much better into both the plot and the terror. To top it all off, the final moments bring a completely different perspective to the table, providing more three-dimensionality to the bigger picture.

   Junior Mikaila Bulloch had much praise for the film. She appreciated the unique approach, admiring “…the way that the backstory is disturbing but still plausible.” For Bulloch, other than the occasional gore, “…it wasn’t hard to sit through like I think other horror is.”

With October nearing its end, the media is chock-full of fear-inducing content one can choose from. It would make sense to watch a sequel in a beloved franchise, Netflix’s latest shock, or any horror film in theaters. But for anyone looking for the best thrills this Halloween season has to offer, Barbarian is the way to go. Equally terrifying and rewarding, you cannot go wrong with this unpredictable rollercoaster of madness.