Review: Zack Cregger’s BARBARIAN

BARBARIAN somehow amassed a strong word of mouth. So much so that my husband, friend and uncle talked about it all weekend until I was propelled to see it today. Written and directed by Zack Cregger, BARBARIAN sees a mix up at a secluded air b&b which results in two patrons checking in the same night. Meanwhile, the owner of the home is returning to the residence to hide from his latest Hollywood scandal. Culminating in a series of unfortunate events, these three unwilling participants become intertwined in a serial rapist’s unholy legacy. Now in theaters and produced by Roy Lee, JD Lifshitz, Raphael Margules and Arnon Milcan, BARBARIAN stars Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, Bill Skarsgard, Matthew Patrick Davis and Richard Brake.

BARBARIAN feels like a mix of DON’T BREATHE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I’m happy to have seen something other than a reboot/remake, predictable slasher and/or possession flick, but I don’t think this film is as strong as everyone around me says it is. I went into my viewing thinking this was going to be an incredibly unsettling film. While the first half of BARBARIAN sets the stage and hammers your senses with “something’s just not right here,” the latter half switches tone and never regains its momentum. Maybe more could have happened inside the tunnels to try and capture that innate darkness, suspense and feeling of claustrophobia. Maybe the “monster” could have been gorier and more primal. Something was just missing, at least to me.

BARBARIAN sees cinematography by Zach Kuperstein and editing by Joe Murphy. From a production standpoint, I have no gripes with this film other than the science involving the height and gravity around the water tower. For shooting most of this movie in darkness, it’s effortlessly clear and clean, and the audio is great. The metaphor of clean vs dirty – whether it’s behind-the-scenes, literal or morality-based – plays well throughout the entire narrative. The actors are great as well, and it was interesting to see Bill Skarsgard out of Pennywise make-up. BARBARIAN is a shining example that not every movie needs to have jump scares, explosions and big effects. A small setting, a small body count and capable actors made this one so successful.

My only issues are that I don’t think it’s as great as everyone says it is and I feel like the forward momentum died out in the second half. It was certainly enjoyable for one viewing, but it’s not going to be a film that I purchase on Blu-ray or stream at a later date. I liken it to the same feeling as HALLOWEEN KILLS. I went into that viewing so excited and ended up leaving with a “meh” opinion. With BARBARIAN, I think a prequel that shows the heart of the madness would be more enjoyable than the current nightmare. As of this writing, BARBARIAN has more than doubled its production budget at the box office, so maybe I’m the only one who wasn’t blown away. But then again, I also wouldn’t run back into a house to save a stranger…

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Michael DeFellipo

(Senior Editor)

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