“Barbarian” sheds a flashlight to a better future for modern-horror.

The horror genre’s newest box-office success lives up to the hype.



Parker Finn’s “Barbarian” cranks modern-horror up a notch.

 I recently pegged “Smile” for its unoriginal narrative and contrived jumpscares and have since fallen into a pit of upset over the future of horror films. I was beginning to feel like nothing at the theater was ever going to genuinely distress or surprise me ever again — then I saw Zach Cregger’s terrifying new feature venture, “Barbarian”… and I rescind my doubts.

Reluctantly staying at a stranger’s property after a mix-up with Airbnb, blank-slate Tess (Georgina Campbell) finds herself in a vulnerable position, staying with evident loner Keith (Bill Skarsgård) while she looks for another place to stay. She soon finds herself wandering the house, entering the basement floor, to find herself mysteriously locked in — what she finds down there, I will not reveal.

What this film does so meticulously is what all great horror films should do, which is draw you in. This film is a different kind of evil, the uneasy, uncanny kind. The kind of slow-burn scary you’d find in an effective 70s thriller — while still cementing itself as unique and of its time.

It’s refreshing to see a major studio horror film use the camera creatively! Wide angles, canted angles galore, only helped further from the expert-level lighting. There are so many grungy set pieces and well-executed gore effects, it’s honestly shocking that so many films that come out today call themselves “horrifying” and can’t even touch some of the sequences in this film.

Some modern audiences aren’t prepared for what this film does, which is why the marketing was genius. I saw the trailer in a theater and saw what I think a lot of people saw, a dull and meandering snore-fest that will offer cheap scares and poor performances (i.e. “Smile”). Listen to me when I tell you, this film is anything but. 

This movie is deranged and so profoundly fucked up, I’m genuinely shocked it was distributed by a major studio. This movie features some of the most intoxicating, deliriously presented scares I’ve seen in a long time (from a new film that is). Moments beyond words plummet the audience through the threshold of mundanity about 20 minutes in, going totally insane as the film continues.

Justin Long and Georgina Cambell fight for their lives in “Barbarian”      CREDIT:  20TH  CENTURY STUDIOS

One thing I have to clue you all into is the inclusion of Justin Long’s character, AJ, an actor in the film’s universe who bumbles his way into hot water after assault allegations about him surface. As scummy and delusional as the AJ character is, he steals the show entirely, in a tonal shift so jarring, it’s bound to keep you invested for the rest of the film. Long’s performance is so contagiously giggle-fitting and grounded, it makes me wonder why he isn’t strictly in films of this caliber.

“Drag Me to Hell”, “Tusk”, and now this all show just what happens when a studio allows a director, who knows exactly what they aim to accomplish, complete creative control (and Justin Long). I don’t think this film would’ve even been greenlit had it come around next year or something — because this is genuinely sick stuff.

I’ve finally found a new midnight movie to show people who know nothing about it. I cannot stress enough what a fun and rewarding ride this is, especially in the company of friends or a crowd. The theater will erupt at so many moments and they are all justified reactions. 

No cheap scares, no subpar performances, and strictly great horror filmmaking. 

Additionally, the soundtrack will ring in your ears long after the credits roll — with a needle drop so perfect, I’ve listened to the song on repeat ever since I left the theater.

I obviously can’t praise this entire film, as there are obvious issues with it but they’re issues that come with the territory. The “know-all, sees-all” character, the stretched-out first act, the underdeveloped protagonist, and the heavy use of visual effects. However, no amount of flaws can really distract the serious success of this film’s bombastic execution. I honestly can’t hold that much of a grudge against it. It doesn’t hold much interest for a rewatch however but neither you nor I can deny just how magnificent of a first-watch experience this is.

As a movie-going trip, “Barbarian” is best left to people open to new ideas as well as classic methods, who are willing to go (with a crowd) and see this insane tonal roller coaster at the home of true thrills, the big screen. This film is beyond worth the price of admission and the patience of going in completely blind.

If you see a horror film in theaters this week, don’t make it “Smile”, make it “Barbarian”.

Final Verdict: 6/10