It’s not often that a story makes the audience laugh and cry at the same time. But director Zach Cregger—known for comedy films such as 2009’s Miss March—has created a narrative that does just that. And it’s a craft that he does at a high level.
His new film, Barbarian, was released in theaters early in September and has been the talk amongst cinephiles for the past month. It’s a wild tale of death and mystery with constant twists and turns—leaving the audience both horrified and smiling.
Barbarian is shot in two parts. Both parts revolve around an Airbnb just outside of Detroit, Mich. The first half of the movie features Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell), a researcher, applying for a position as a documentary filmmaker in the Detroit area.
While interviewing for the job, Tess stays in the Airbnb, which happens to be double-booked with another guest. The second half of the movie then focuses on the owner of the Airbnb, AJ Gilbride (Justin Long), and his attempt to sell the property in order to liquidate his assets.
But let’s leave that as the summary. The more blind the audience goes in, the better.
This movie gains its power from constant plot twists. As a general rule in horror movies, terror is derived from not knowing what’s going to happen next. Barbarian takes that to the next level, constantly unfolding its plot and putting viewers on the edges of their seats at all times.
The performances in this movie are worth raving about. Each of the three main actors—Campbell, Long, and Bill Skarsgård—is phenomenal. While each character is very distinct in nature and personality, their roles in the story are ultimately all the same. It’s the way their unique personas react to their situation that makes them so special.
The way in which the three interact with each other on screen is fluid and helps to build a believable world based on such an outlandish concept. The performances in this film only bolster the overall story, taking this horror film from good to great.
Along with all the scares throughout the movie, Cregger sprinkles in moments of humor to make his audience laugh between screams. The story itself is a particularly creepy one—with the potential to permanently scare someone away from staying in an Airbnb ever again—but there are certain plot points throughout that break the horror mold, making the audience chuckle.
Moving from terror to smile to terror is extremely powerful in pulling emotion from the audience and creating connection with the film. Cregger’s first horror film has become a huge hit among fans of horror, leaving the community wondering what he will do next.