Before we begin, let me reassure you that this review will be completely spoiler-free. I won’t even divulge the film’s plot synopsis and will even redact things if I’m too close to spoilers. Director Zach Cregger has crafted one heck of a ferocious horror film in Barbarian and has purposefully kept its biggest surprises a secret in its minimalist marketing campaign. The trailer reveals absolutely nothing, so who am I to spoil the fun? Sometimes I tackle spoilers in my review whenever I want to examine an aspect of the film worth discussing. However, Barbarian is a film that is better experienced as cold as possible without reading or watching anything.
You can watch the trailer, but it’s best if you don’t watch it. When was the last time you went to a movie without having watched or read anything about it? Probably never (at least for me), and so to get a purely cathartic experienced solely based on insane word-of-mouth seems unheard of. But you’ll be able to get it with Barbarian if you’re careful on social media. This is also the first time I’ve seen film twitter not wanting to reveal what happens in the movie. Usually, they’re the first to spoil everything regarding the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, for Barbarian, every tweet I’ve seen regarding that movie was summed up as “Read nothing. Just go!” And they’re right.
It doesn’t always work, especially during its ending (I’ll shut my mouth now), but when it does, oh. My. God. Plenty of claustrophobic scenes made the entire theater erupt in pure terror, particularly when [REDACTED]. God, it is hard to actively say something without spoiling, but let me assure you that Barbarian is indeed very scary. I rarely get scared during horror movies because I always know when the jumpscare will arrive or when a character will make a very dumb decision that could lead to their demise. In Barbarian, the clichés are present, but Cregger continually subverts the tension. I won’t say anything else regarding that.
Barbarian is also the first horror movie I’ve seen in a theater where the audience wasn’t annoying. I got scared (heh) when a group of loud-talking teenagers arrived at my showing, with their bright phones shining during its trailers. I’ve had a history of bad experiences with horror movies in cinemas. It almost feels like I’m cursed. However, as soon as the film started and the plot slowly began to unravel in unique and completely unexpected directions, the loud-talking teenagers stopped talking, turned off their phones, and were locked into the movie. Everyone laughed when they were supposed to laugh, and everyone screamed where they were supposed to scream. Rare is a horror movie this in tune with its audience. It’s almost as if Cregger knows exactly when to drop a colossal revelation and make the audience’s eyes progressively widen in intrigue, wanting to learn more about what they’ve just seen.
Whenever you think Barbarian will enter the standard horror category, it finds new and exciting ways to surprise you. Whether it’s through legitimately terrifying scares, claustrophobic cinematography from Zach Kuperstein, or effective cuts, there’s always one more trick up Cregger’s sleeve that consistently makes the movie fresh and new. I’ve always struggled with mainstream horror movies through their audience never seems to care about what’s going on and love to talk out loud during the film because all of them lack originality. Barbarian is the most original horror movie of the year. It has one of the most original plot structures of the year, too, fueled by impeccable performances by its lead actors, Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long.
Campbell is an absolute force in this movie. To say more would mean ruining the fun, so let me say she currently sits at the top of my favorite female performances of the year. It’s that good. And Long has also surprised the heck out of me in this. His turn does lean into his comedic style (and this sick and twisted picture contains plenty of funny moments), but his character also has a few dramatic flourishes that make him more interesting. But, the vaguer, the better, so I’ll stop here.
I’d love to talk about some aspects of the movie that I didn’t like, but that would mean entering spoiler territory. And I don’t want to do that. You should see Barbarian. That’s it. Just take my word for it. Spoilers will start to come out after its opening weekend, so the time to go to the theater and see it completely blind is now. If you’re looking for one heck of a time at the movies because you were disappointed by recent horror outings, this is it. Once Barbarian starts, it never stops frightening you. It is the real deal. Just don’t bring babies.
Barbarian is now playing in theatres everywhere.