“Barbarian” review: A rejuvenating take on contemporary horror

Courtesy of IMDb

Courtesy of IMDb

Michael Lardizabal, Staff Writer

The directorial and writing feature debut of Zach Cregger, “Barbarian, proves to have such a dexterity when it comes to its pacing– unlike every horror movie to come out in the last couple of years, and Zach Cregger thrives in using his background in comedy to subvert expectations in a way that makes this movie a beast within itself.

Taking place in the outskirts of Detroit, Tess (Georgina Campbell) gets stuck in the double-booked Airbnb as she discovers that the house she rented is not what it seems. 

Cregger, originally getting his start in Hollywood by doing low budget-comedy for Adult Swim such as The Whitest Kids U’Know (2007-2011)— it certainly came to a surprise to me when I found out he was directing it. After watching it, I can say with certainty that Cregger’s ability to write and direct horror is nothing to scoff at, having his first horror film be one of the scariest movies in years. 

He also worked with  a star-studded cast, the likes of: Bill Skarsgard, Georgina Campbell, and Justin Long. The performances were extraordinary, having the dexterity and range to be able to pull off the momentum of tensing up the audience with the extreme dichotomy of having the same pacing as a raunchy-comedy. 

The horror hits, and the comedy lands. One of the most notable factors of “Barbarian” that gave it the ability to play both of these ends was the masterful cinematography of Zach Kuperstein. From the absurdly intricate tracking-shots, to a Fincher-like eeriness, Kuperstein’s eye is definitely one that is able to make any moment horrific or absolutely absurd. 

I’ve personally never been one for horror films, especially those in recent years, which rely heavily on visual effects and clique tropes for relevancy. However, this film gives the genre a breath of fresh air when it comes to going back to basics utilizing mostly practical techniques, as well as, building up to suspense and subversion of expectations. 

Prior to watching the film, I took a moment to research it, watching a couple of teasers and trailers– but nothing prepared me for “Barbarian”. The marketing campaign and overall picture of this film doesn’t give you a clue about the actual plot, and with the majority of the market being saturated in oversharing plot-lines, it was truly shocking going in and experiencing the movie with no knowledge of what’s to come. 

“Barbarian” will go down, in my eyes, as one of the best horror movies of the year along with Jordan Peele’s “Nope”. Everything the film does has such visceral intention yet subtlety at once. Cregger forces you into the bowls of his mind as he proves to now be one of the modern-day masters of horror. I hope the future of his filmography is able to once again prove the level of his skill.


“Barbarian” is now available in theaters.

Illustration by Ariel Landry