Film Review: ‘Barbarian’ is a Socially Conscious and Visually Stunning Instant Modern Horror Classic

Film Review: ‘Barbarian’ is a Socially Conscious and Visually Stunning Instant Modern Horror Classic

Horror movies often thrive on the commentary they offer about modern culture’s most harrowing social concerns. The upcoming thriller, Barbarian, is one such genre feature that fearlessly explores some of contemporary America’s leading troubles, notably women often feeling as though they have to be guarded around, and fight back against, strangers who may wish harm on them.

Television writer-director-producer Zach Cregger made his feature film directorial and screenwriting debut on Barbarian. The up-and-coming filmmaker, who was inspired to pen the script after he read a book that encourages women to listen to their instincts, not only hopes people will discuss the drama’s themes, but also embrace all of its visual and emotional genre elements.

Barbarian follows Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman who travels to Detroit for a job interview that can change her life forever. But when she arrives late at night at the rental home she booked for her stay in the city, she discovers that the house was double-booked, and a man, Keith (Bill Skarsgård), is already staying there.

Against her better judgment, Tess decides to spend the evening in the house anyway, and slowly begins to get to know Keith. But after several strange, unexplained events begin to plague both Tess and Keith, they soon discover that the property holds secrets that they should fear more than just an unexpected houseguest.

Cregger relied on his longform storytelling background in television to create a fully developed, unforgettable horror thriller feature. Barbarian thrives on both truly cultivated character and story arcs and visually stunning production value he instinctively created as a first-time filmmaker to tell its relatable, socially conscious modern story.

The filmmaker, who was inspired to pen the script after he read a book that encourages women to trust their instincts while they’re in potentially dangerous circumstances, crafted Tess to instinctively know how to protect herself when she’s put into such a situation. While assessing the unexpected appearance of Keith when she first arrives at the house and later evaluating how to protect her life when the property’s shocking past is revealed, Tess proves to be a strong-willed, determined protagonist in any harrowing situation.

Campbell was perfectly cast as the drama’s strong-willed protagonist, as she has already proven her versatility as a genre actress in recent years on such acclaimed sci-fi television shows as Black Mirror and Krypton. Having perfected creating in-depth characters arcs on her series, the actress was effortlessly able to build Tess’ initial apprehension about staying in the house with Keith when they first meet.

The protagonist’s initial wariness of Keith highlights the importance of young women being aware of their environments and the potential danger they eventually find themselves in. Her doubts about his intentions intensify her subsequent fears about her life being in danger after she discovers the secrets of the house’s past and present that are buried within it.

Tess’ initial qualms about sharing a rental home with a stranger in an unsafe neighborhood, which give way to an even more intense sense of terror when she later uncovers the property’s shocking history, is visually brought to life by Zach Kuperstein’s dazzling cinematography. The director of photography’s expert use of lighting and camera angles help drive the protagonist’s growing sense of fear as she searches for answers about the house’s secrets.

Throughout the beginning of Barbarian, Tess continuously enters into dimly lit rooms and hallways that are only later fully revealed as she slowly uncovers each mystery. Kuperstein also captures the character’s continuously changing feelings that range from hopelessness, fear, despair and eventually determination to survive. Through both intimate close-up shots of her while she’s expressing her concerns and sweeping wide shots that chronicle her physical prowess  to protect her life, Tess’ emotional journey is brilliantly showcased on screen.

Barbarian proves to be an instant classic horror movie that will resonate with its audience, especially young adults for its socially conscious and relevant modern story. Through the interweaving of its complex story arc, a captivating lead performance from Campbell and visually stunning cinematography from Kuperstein, the movie proves that society’s biggest danger may not always be clearly evident.

20th Century Studios will release Barbarian in theaters this Friday, September 9.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

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