A deliciously terrifying work of cinematic misdirection!
Imagine a scenario with me for a moment:
You’re a single, unarmed woman travelling out of town for a job interview. You rent an Airbnb for the night, and when you arrive — in the pouring rain, in the middle of the night — your key code doesn’t work, the lights are on inside, and some random guy tells you that this is his Airbnb.
What, dear reader, would you do in that scenario? If you’re a girl, who’s literally seen any horror movie ever, I’m guessing you, like me, would immediately retreat to the safety of your car, drive as fast and as far as you can, and consider yourself lucky.
But it wouldn’t be a horror movie if our heroine did that, so Tess (Georgina Campbell) reluctantly agrees to come inside, despite her initial misgivings about her unexpected roommate Keith (Bill Skarsgård). The audience’s first introduction to Keith is our first indication that nothing about Barbarian is what it seems.
Is Keith actually as creepy as he comes across? Or is he just an awkward guy in an even more awkward situation? Barbarian’s early scenes make it impossible to tell, and I won’t offer you any clarity because Barbarian is best watched when you know absolutely nothing about it.
Each deliberate instance of wrong-footing is perfectly set up by writer-director, Zach Cregger, who tailors each bit of misinformation according to our worst suspicions… and then transcends them completely. This is brilliantly supported by cinematographer, Zach Kuperstein’s, innovative camera work which acknowledges — and challenges — your every expectation about what the creepiest shot should be.
Barbarian plays to its tropes fantastically; every “They have to be behind you!” and “Don’t go in there!” moment is uniquely terrifying because it’s anti-climactic. It’s also a reminder that nothing about Barbarian adheres to your expectations.
This is a delightful, hysterical, breath-taking romp through horror that transcends everything you anticipate. The moments you expect to be terrifying leave you laughing — shaky, breathless, on the edge of your seat — and the moments you expect to be funny, instead, make you ponder.
For a horror movie with prominent #MeToo undertones, Barbarian does a flawless job of walking both lines with terrific finesse. The finale in particular plays against type in a shockingly poignant and unexpected way that left me feeling a bittersweet sorrow no other horror film has kindled in me before.
Refusing to spoil the best twists has become an unspoken commitment amongst horror reviewers, so I won’t give away anything about Barbarian that will detract from your experience.
But I will say this: if you only watch one scary movie this year, watch Barbarian.
Watch it blind.
… and then don’t spoil it for anybody else!
Barbarian is not out in the cinemas!