Barbarian Is a Win for the Horror Genre

4.5/5 falcons

Asmayt Medhanie, Contributing Writer

What Barbarian does—which most horror movies this year have failed to do—is master almost all aspects of what makes the perfect horror movie. With a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score, director Zach Cregger was able to not only nail countless jump scares, but also create a plot that no one could see coming. If I was given a year after seeing the trailer to brainstorm all the ways this movie could have gone, nothing on my list would have even come close. 

The trailer opens with our main character Tess (Georgina Campbell) on a stormy night, attempting to enter the Airbnb she has rented, where she finds Keith (Bill Skarsgård), already having made himself at home. They both quickly realize that the home has been double booked and that the safest option for Tess is to come in and figure out the details from there. Then, things go completely off the rails: creaking doors, haunting discoveries, and—the best selling point of this film—things we can’t even make sense of are shown. 

Cregger is able to balance social commentary, thematic relationships, multiple narratives, and well-executed jump scares.”

I could write an entirely separate review of Barbarian solely on the genius of its marketing. Offering the audience so little in the trailer and then letting them sit with their predictable assumptions leaves them completely naive to the director’s sadistic plan. A good amount of Barbarian‘s promotion was clips of audiences’ reactions while watching the movie. As a massive horror fan, I watched these reactions expecting them to be exaggerated, overplaying the actual scariness of this movie; but not only did I scream in the theater at one point, I watched the majority of the movie through my fingers. As scary as it was, it was also a movie that had me laughing from pure shock and absurdity. 

Barbarian plays so confidently with our assumptions through its casting choices, our ideas of what a monster is, and most obviously, with the title of the film. While my only critiques are the series of dumb choices the characters make (a common theme in horror movies) and a slight drag during the second act of the film, the way they serve the plot immediately gains my forgiveness. Cregger is able to balance social commentary, thematic relationships, multiple narratives, and well-executed jump scares, without ever sacrificing the plot. Throughout the film, he perfectly juggles juxtaposing tones that allow the film to earn a level of rewatchability that many recent horror movies don’t possess. If this review hasn’t convinced you that you will love this movie, then I urge you to buy a ticket just to prove me wrong. I promise you Cregger will have the same effect on you as he did me.

This piece also appears in our October 2022 print edition.