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Review: Barbarian

Title: Barbarian
Director: Zach Cregger
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1 h 42 mins

What It Is: A young woman discovers the rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger. Against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night but soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.

What We Think: Barbarian is a special gem that just dropped on HBO Max this last week and is by all means a quintessential spooky season viewing experience. What writer/director Zach Cregger has made here is not only refreshing – it’s a melting pot of all the things horror fans (myself included) would want in a story, but it adds its own ingredients to the mix that make the final course succulent with adrenaline and awe.

I’m already risking your viewing experience by giving this such high praise right off the bat, and even reading the synopsis would discourage the average viewer. Funnily enough, I watched this with someone who read the description on HBO Max and already came up with their prediction to how the story would go: girl goes to house, meets off-putting guy in house, weird stuff happens, and so on and so forth. I didn’t blame them. I was tempering my expectations towards a film that looked like a different take on the whole “one location, two people” horror flick. Was it so? You’ll have to take that chance yourself.

The lead performances are stellar – hadn’t seen Georgina Campbell in anything prior, but she kills it. As for Bill Skarsgård, he’s always a welcome sight to see, and a smart casting choice for this particular story. Justin Long, however, is another whose work I hadn’t really noticed until now – he’s a brilliant comedic talent and is one of the best aspects of the film. Going back to the “once location” aspect, the production design is well-thought out, with certain set pieces foreshadowing what’s to come with the help of excellent camera setups and camera blocking. The frames here are definitely not hard on the eyes – the color palette here is gorgeous! At some tense moments, Anna Drubich’s score creepily takes its time between notes (loved it), and while we’re on that subject, Joe Murphy’s editing it does just that. Well-paced, and sparing. The only place where the story might lag a bit (and it did a little for me here) is for a small period after the opening 10 minutes, which is fine. Every runner stumbles. Otherwise, terrific filmmaking. And made for a budget of $4 million nonetheless!

What We Think: A; Concise and thrilling, Barbarian is a sleeper hit that must be seen- whether to terrify and traumatize, or to excite and entertain. Or, all of the above. Check this one out, now streaming on HBO Max!

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