Director: Zach Cregger
Screenplay: Zach Cregger
Stars: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, J.R. Esposito, Derek Morse and Zach Cregger.
Tess Marshall (Campbell) arrives late one rainy night to the home she’s rented. Tess is in town for a job interview. Surprisingly, she finds the house has been double-booked. The other renter is named Keith (Skarsgård). After unsuccessfully trying to reach the rental office, Tess decides to get a hotel room. When she’s unable to find any available, she learns there’s a big convention in town. Keith suggests that they both stay in the house. Although a little concerned about Keith at first, Tess feels comfortable enough to stay the night. Keith takes the couch and Tess the bedroom with the door locked.
The next morning Tess and Keith leave for the day. Tess is shocked by the condition of the neighborhood. Every house on the block is deserted and dilapidated. After her interview, Tess returns to the house. Keith isn’t back yet. As Tess is checking out the place, she accidentally locks herself in the basement. Looking for another way out, Tess discovers a hidden room. In the room is a dirty, bloody mattress and a camcorder. Tess is starting to freak out when she hears Keith has returned…
Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…
Writer-director Zach Cregger intentionally made Barbarian‘s tone feel like two different films. The first half is “a Fincher movie” while the second is like “a Raimi movie…”. This creates an interesting juxtaposition. In the first half of the film, Tess doesn’t trust her instincts enough to leave. She then makes poor decisions, but for good reasons. Cregger lets it all play out slowly and as Tess begins to think the situation is okay, we as an audience still have doubts. When things reach a climax, Cregger breaks away to introduce a character named AJ (Long).
At first this is very disorienting. Then it becomes clear that AJ’s story ties in to what’s happening with Tess. In fact, AJ will soon find himself in the same danger as Tess. When a character is introduced late in a film, he/she is often the hero who will save the day. Not so, here.
Not only did Cregger change up character expectations, but this is where his filmmaking style changes. Things move quicker and we’re no longer in a psychological thriller, but a full blown horror movie. Hats off to Cregger for having faith in himself (and his audience) to make such a move.
Not only is there a disparity in the tone of Tess and AJ’s stories, but their characters as well. Tess made poor decisions to help another, while AJ makes poor decisions for selfish reasons. The contrast between the characters as well as the way their stories are shown are as different as, uh, up and down. ; )
Georgina Campbell is an actress that I hadn’t seen before. She’s excellent. I’ll be watching for her in the future. Bill Skarsgård hits all the right notes. Is he the nice guy he wants us to believe or is he a monster who has Tess fooled? Justin Long plays against type and does it well. The real star of the show is writer/director Zach Cregger, Barbarian is his first feature and he executed it with style. I’m excited to see Cregger’s plans for his next film.
Oh, and if you think you’ve figured out how the movie plays out from this review… you haven’t.
Barbarian earns 4 of 5 stars.