This has just been a great year for horror.
Sure, the year started off pretty slow with nothing much notable but the latest Scream film hitting theaters, but lately, these things have just been pouring onto screens big and small. There’ve been all kinds of them as well: there’s the latest Jordan Peele spectacle, Nope; the polarizing third film from Alex Garland, Men; the David Cronenberg return-to-body-horror, Crimes of the Future; and the return-to-quality fourth season of Stranger Things… and that’s just scratching the surface. But I don’t want to bore you; is there any point to me listing off these titles other than to cheekily hyperlink them on my website? Well… that’s certainly a big one (sorry, Instagram readers), but my main point is this: it’s been a great year already… but it’s NOT OVER YET!
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Barbarian, a film so unapologetically “horror flick” that seeing it at home, instead of at the cinema with a reactionary crowd, would be an entirely different experience altogether. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work without an audience around you, but that you should definitely buy a ticket for the cinema if you get the chance. While it’d be easy to dismiss as just an empty homage piece — especially in a year when we already have the exploitation love-letter X (and its upcoming prequel Pearl) — I found Barbarian to be a wholly unique experience, and one where you can never guess exactly what’s gonna happen next. The aforementioned X worshiped the more material aspects of old grindhouse horror, such as bloody kills, a farmhouse setting, and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” playing over a car stereo. Barbarian opts for a much more psychological nod. Never have I seen a movie toy with my emotions so blatantly, or make me want to chuckle and say “Oh, piss off…” so often. It is so astonishingly aware of itself as a movie-which-can-make-people-have-extreme-emotional-reactions that the filmmakers might as well have recorded themselves winking every time there’s one of these endearing, groan-inducing moments. It’s pure horror-flick.
Additionally, this is a movie for the horror buff who wants to tear their eyes out watching characters make stupid decisions. It simultaneously rewards those who make good, smart, creative decisions, but condemns those devoid of common sense and who tend towards general idiocy. This is a rule that applies to the situational struggles of the characters, but also the lives they lead outside of this haunted house. Basement door keeps mysteriously locking itself when you’re down there? Prop a chair in front of it so it doesn’t close and ~voila~, live to fight another couple of minutes; lead a life of harassment, manipulation, and general sleaze? Might wanna watch your back when you get locked in a room with a… well… I’ll let You, the Reader, discover that for yourself. In other words, Barbarian puts a lot of weight on virtue, and could alternatively be titled something catchy like “Karma” or something a bit more flashy like “No! Don’t Walk Down the Spooky Dark Corridor Backwards, You Ignorant Dipshit!” I don’t have copyrights on either of those, so feel free to snag them.
And that’s about all I care to tell you. That’s right, no first-act synopsis this time around… you’re better off going in blind. If you’re one of those who always says, “They just don’t make ’em like they used to,” if you’re in need a late-night popcorn movie pick, or if you’re a horror nerd and wish to have your spine chilled and/or your timbers otherwise shivered, go see this in a cinema NOW.
Overall rating: 9/10