Barbarian (2022) – Zach Cregger

Wow.

Writer/director Zach Cregger blew me away with this one, completely subverting my expectations while playing with the traditional horror rules in this fantastic thriller of a film.

From his framing to camera movement to casting to the way he doles out the story, Cregger plays with an increasingly film-savvy and educated horror audience and takes things in directions that you definitely don’t expect.

And to make sure that remains in place, I’m not going to give a very in-depth review, except to rave about how Cregger tells his story. Horror fans have come to expect things to happen with certain framing, eyes are drawn to certain parts of the screen because of lighting and the like, and Cregger plays with that, toying smartly with the viewer.

To keep things at their most basic in terms of plot description, a woman, Tess (Georgina Campbell) comes to Detroit for a job interview. She’s booked an Air BnB, but upon arriving finds that it’s double booked, Keith (Bill Skarsgard) is already there. But that is just the beginning of the discoveries that happen, and Tess isn’t ready for where those discoveries lead.

Even watching the trailer doesn’t give away a lot, thankfully, but it does set the mood brilliantly, as you find yourself much like Tess and mid-picture arrival AJ (Justin Long) demanding WTF?!

AJ’s character arc is interesting and incredibly relevant, and Tess is a wonderfully empowered character, refusing to take shit from anyone but also knowing how to read a situation.

I don’t want to talk about sequences, moments, or truly unnerving revelations until after you’ve seen it, but this one gob-smacked me. It feels like Cregger came out of nowhere and delivered a powerful sock to the jaw and has left me stunned.

Viewers should realize pretty quickly that Cregger plays with expectations and reality. Using Skarsgard who is coming off of playing Pennywise, you inherently can’t trust him, he was just this scary clown-thing and now he’s in another horror movie and we’re just supposed to trust him?

Cregger also does that by starting the film at night with Tess arriving at the house rental, and noticing that all the other houses around her are dark. A quiet neighbourhood? It’s not until daylight that we see the reality.

There’s a lot of that throughout the film and I totally dug and loved each twisted reveal and each new revelation.

If you haven’t seen it, or want something unique, relevant, and scary, this is definitely one to check out!

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