In town for a job interview, a young woman arrives at her Airbnb rental late at night only to find that the house has been mistakenly double-booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgment, she decides to stay the night anyway, but soon discovers that there is much more to be afraid of in the house than the other house guest.
Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard & Justin Long.
Barbarian is a haunting, dread fuelled indie horror that has a lot to say under its many layers of commentary on society & the Hollywood industry. While having a lot to say, it goes without saying that the directing by Zach Cregger is undoubtedly the highlight, giving us a selection of wide angles to convey all sorts of emotion and feeling, that feeling mostly being of dread. It is an incredibly effective decision on his part that sent me spiralling in fear, as our characters walk through the dark hallways.
For many years, I have only felt fear from one film, the final shot of The Blair Witch Project. That was until we reached the ending of the first act here, that masters the use of dead space, that ultimately draws our eyes to it even when we want to look away. The jump scares feel earned, without any cheap jumps to get the ball rolling or to incite fear, that is given to us through the wonderful camerawork and cinematography that urges us to move closer to the screen. Georgina Campbell was terrific in the lead, along with Justin Long whom surprised me most, following his previous work being so comic focused.
I often forgot that a score was present for a good chunk of the runtime, as it almost acted as the film’s own sound, building the feeling of dread through every moment. As impressive as the technical sides are, the production design is terrific, especially for the 4 million dollar budget that they worked with. It is clear Zach cared for each frame and how to handle a relatively large scale story into a smaller scale production.
When the credits rolled, I did however, feel as though they could have dived deeper into the basement beneath the house. There was a line that filled me with even more dread that I expected to be expanded upon, but unfortunately wasn’t. Even though this doesn’t take too much away from the film, I would have much preferred to deep dive further into the other horror aspects that this film presented around the second act.
While a lot to unpack thematically, it doesn’t overshadow how expertly directed this is. Saying that this is one of the best horror films of the year would be an understatement, absolutely challenging some of the best this year. Georgina Campbell earns her place as our lead and fills me with hope that she would receive more work to come, especially in more indie films that deserve just as much recognition as this.