Breaking Art News Daily Worldwide

JUSTIN TANNER REVIEWS

BARBARIAN


by Justin Tanner


IMAGE COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

The first third of Zach Cregger’s mind-blowing horror film, “Barbarian” plays almost like a cookie cutter Rom/Com, and it would be fun to take out all the portentous music, change the title to “Double Booked!” (or something equally benign), invite a bunch of unsuspecting “in-love” couples to a screening of what they believed to be a funny romance...and watch their horrified reactions when Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) innocently opens the door to the basement and all hell breaks loose.

I’d seen the preview for “Barbarian” half a dozen times, with its somewhat promising, if overly familiar, cryptic subterranean abattoir vibe, and tempered my expectations.

So I was totally unprepared for the deliriously freaked-out marvelousness of the film which I watched, slack-jawed and aghast, in a state of anticipatory confusion and delight.

Director Creggar (The Whitest Kids U' Know) has made a terrifically constructed fright-fest, with more whiplash disorienting twists, reveals, and time travel restarts than a dozen scary movies. And its last hour is absolutely crammed with so many scares, laughs, and bonkers WTF moments that any discussion of plot past the thirty minute mark is officially off the table.

The set up is right out of a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan comedy from the 90’s: What happens when that Airbnb you rented online gets double booked and you find yourself in the middle of the night having to share a house with a total stranger? Hi-jinks!

What starts out as a suspicious and wary ‘meet cute’, chock full of (quickly dispelled) red flag warnings, ends up with a shared bottle of wine, unexpected connections and a lingering ‘good night’ that almost leads to a kiss.

The would-be romantic leads are played by the charming and attractive Campbell (”All My Friends Hate Me”) and Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise the Clown in ”It”). And they are given a script that is sharper and more layered than we usually get from a film like this.

But Cregger has a lot on his mind - and before the insanity begins, he takes us on a labyrinthine trip into male/female relations, power dynamics, how to (not) trust your instincts, and, inevitably, how love can sometimes lead you into making REALLY bad decisions.


IMAGE COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

“Bad Decisions”, in fact, would be a great alternate title. With all of its “Are they out of their minds?” moments — in which characters ignore their spidey sense and open doors they KNOW they should leave closed — the audience almost becomes a character in the film, impotently shouting “No!” again and again.

Horror has had a pretty lousy year so far: The big guns, “X”, “Crimes of the Future”, “Scream”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Black Phone” were all shooting blanks. The foreign and domestic independents, “Hatching,” “Watcher,” “Men,” “Glorious,” and the ultra dreary “Innocents” barely justified their footage.

And the most successful thrillers, “Prey”, “You Won’t be Alone”, “Master” and “Resurrection”, were more action flick, art house picture and social issue dramas (respectively) than outright horror films.

Of course there was Mimi Cave’s brilliant sucker punch “Fresh”, which managed the triple feat of being a Rom/Com/Slasher all at once. (And, thanks to Cave’s tight control of the material — and a fierce commitment to her twisted point of view — ended up as one of the best films of the year, horror or not).


IMAGE COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

And “Barbarian”, with its cast of across-the-board first-rate actors is right up there.

Justin Long (“Drag Me to Hell”) manages to tap into his usual comfort zones of oily charm and “who me?” disingenuousness with a fresh new finesse: He’s never been better or more present onscreen.

Richard Brake (The Mandalorian) brings a chilly blankness to the pivotal role as Frank — shopping at Target has never seemed so skin-crawly.

Kate Nichols (”The Operative”) has only one short scene, but she brings all kinds of hilarious subtext to the delivery of a single word: “Brightmoor?” — I laughed every time she said it, and I could easily watch a whole movie about her character, Catherine.

Best of all, Matthew Patrick Davis (American Dad!) blows the screen apart every time he appears. His physicality switches fluidly from menacing to heartwarming to hilarious. He is a real find and the movie’s secret weapon.

When everybody brings their A-game, the director is most likely the responsible party. So let me give a full throated scream of approval to Zach Cregger for brightening up a dim year for horror. I can barely wait to see what he does next.

I remember reading the LA Weekly review of Woody Allen’s “Purple Rose of Cairo” back in 1985, which basically said: “Sometimes the best thing a critic can do is tell you ‘don’t read any reviews, just go see the movie.’” I took their advice, and when Mia Farrow’s big moment came, I was grateful and delighted to experience that film’s joyful surprise unspoiled.

So in the spirit of keeping “Barbarian”’s many nutso astonishments under wraps, I advise that you not watch the trailer, or read any other reviews. Just buy a ticket, get some popcorn and sit back. "This is a movie best served cold."

IN THEATERS

 

An LA-based playwright, JUSTIN TANNER has more than twenty produced plays to his credit, including Voice Lessons, Day Drinkers, Space Therapy, Wife Swappers, and Coyote Woman. His Pot Mom received the PEN-West Award for Best Play.

He has written for the TV shows Gilmore Girls, My So-Called Life and the short-lived Love Monkey. He wrote, directed and edited 88 episodes of the web series Ave 43, available on YouTube.

Tanner is the current Playwright in Residence for the Rogue Machine Theatre in Hollywood, where his two plays Minnesota and Little Theatre will premiere in the summer of 2022.

 

Back to Main Page

 

 

 



Gordy Grundy

RESOURCES
Dictionary

Thesaurus
Drudge Worldwide Weather
Maps
NightOut

Reference Desk

FKA CINEMA
Birth.Movies.Death.
Collider
Deadline
Roger Friedman
Lloyd Grove
Hollywood Dementia
Hollywood Reporter
IMDB
IndieWire
Rotten Tomatoes
Variety

TECHNO
Boing Boing
Engineering & Technology
Innovation & Tech Today
Jalopnik
MIT Technology Review
National Geographic
NASA
Tech Briefs
The Verge
Wired

LAUGHS
Bizarro
Butcher and Wood
Dave Barry
The Chive
CNN
Doonesbury
Funny Or Die
NYT Loose Ends
The Onion
Popbitch
Smoking Gun

HALCYON
Daily Beast

Esquire
The New Yorker
New York Magazine
Los Angeles Magazine
Town and Country
Vanity Fair

 

BEAUTY INSIDE + OUT
Abitare
Architectural Digest
Architecural Record
Dwell
Elle Decor
Gray
House Beautiful
House and Garden
Interior Design
Metropolis
Veranda
Wallpaper
World of Interiors

MISTER CHOW
Art of Eating
Bon Appetit
Cooks Illustrated
Epicurious
Fine Cooking
Food & Wine
Gastronomica
Saveur
You Grow Girl

TRAVEL
Adventure Journal
AFAR
Conde Nast Traveler
The Culture-ist
Go Nomad
Go World Travel
Matador Network
National Geographic Traveller
Travel + Leisure
Vagabondish
Wanderlust

MAN + NATURE
Fine Gardening
Garden Design
Land 8
Landscape Architecture Magazine
Landscape Architecture Foundation
World Landscape Architecture

FASHION
Allure

Cosmopolitan
Elle
Fashionista
Fashion
Glamour
GQ
Look
Marie Claire
NYT Style Magazine
Teen Vogue
Vogue
Vogue China
Vogue India
Vogue Italy
Vogue Paris
Women's Wear Daily

FINE ARTS
Artsy
Artforum
Artillery
Apollo
Art F City
Art Almanac
Art and Australia
Art Daily
Art Fix Daily
Art in America
Art Monthly
Artnet
Artnews
Art Review
Artspace
Blouton ArtInfo
Brooklyn Street Art
Burnaway
Deviant Art
Flash Art
Frieze
Glasstire
Hi·Fructose
Hyperallergic
Juxtapoz
Parkett
Saatchi Art
The Art Newspaper
White Hot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIVACY POLICY
TERMS OF USE
AD CHOICES
PRIVACY RIGHTS

 


 

 


News Tips? Email: info@ArtReportToday.com


Advertise With Us! Email: info@ArtReportToday.com


ART REPORT TODAY
Blue Chip, Red Dot
Art Noir
: True Crime in the Art World
Artists Who Catch Our Eye
Collectors' Cache
Archives
Art Report Today: Our Podcasts

ART PODCASTS
Arts & Ideas
Art History Babes
Bad At Sports
Brett Easton Ellis
Art Curious
CAA How To
Michael Delgado
Tyler Green
The Lonely Planet
NPR Fresh Air
A Piece of Work Abbi Jacobson
Raw Material SFMOMA
Sculptor's Funeral
Hrag Vartanian- Hyperallergic

BOOKS
Book Search
A. G. Geiger

Book Riot
Catapult
Electric Literature
Jane Friedman
Goodreads
Literary Hub
The Rumpus
Vol. 1 Brooklyn

IDOLATRY
Page Six

People
Popbitch
TMZ

MUSIC
Alternative Press
Billboard
BBC Classical Music
Downbeat
Kerrang!
MOJO
NME
Revolver
Rolling Stone
SPIN