Barbarian horror movie It’s probably the horror movie you’ve been waiting for. A film that, although it does not add anything new to this genre, is successful in creating horror. Stay with Zumji and Berberian movie reviews.
The third feature film of the American actor and comedian Zack Kerger is a suspenseful horror film that takes the audience into a dark and underground world. A film whose strength is partly related to the energetic rhythm and unpredictability of its story. Although Berberian’s screenplay lacks the necessary depth and complexity in some places, especially in its final act, Karger’s creative direction and his understanding of the mechanism of creating suspense and horror have given the film a unique freshness and charm. A film that is a combination of subtleties and bold choices and unpleasant and superficial deviations. But with the help of his cinematographer Zach Kuperstein and his acceptable cast, Kerger has managed to pull off a strange horror story in an entertaining way.
To enjoy Barbarians, it’s best to go with minimal background. Because any additional information may spoil some of the surprising charms of its story
To enjoy Barbarians, it’s best to go with minimal background. Because any additional information may spoil some of the surprising charms of its story. As a result, you will experience less horror and suspense while watching it. Because as we mentioned, part of the film’s charm lies in its story surprises and genre playfulness. During the 100-minute duration of Barbarians, Kreger repeatedly places us in new situations that, while completing the film’s story puzzle, create a special perceptual experience for us.
The story of the film will be revealed later
Berberian’s screenplay has a quasi-episodic structure and includes three separate parts and a final delay that completes these three parts at one point. We’re about forty minutes into the movie with two characters in an Airbnb house on the outskirts of Detroit. A part of Detroit where many homes and neighborhoods were abandoned due to the 2008 US mortgage crisis. In such a way that even the police ignore it. In two parts of the film, the character of Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, asks the police for help, but both times they somehow avoid helping her. In moments, especially in the part where the story takes place in the 80s, Kreger refers to the background of this almost deserted suburb. A place in the metropolis of Detroit that was once the cradle of the automobile industry in the middle of the 20th century, but now images of dilapidated houses and cars stand out in it.
Zack Kerger repeatedly puts us in new situations during the hundred-minute duration of Barbarians, which completes the film’s story puzzle and creates a special perceptual experience for us.
This neighborhood is a part of the same abandoned areas of Detroit that is depicted in Fede Alvarez’s film Don’t Breathe. Of course, these two films have similarities in their plot and even follow the same story strategies in some places. Both films tell the story of characters who are trapped in a house in this post-apocalyptic area. A house that has a dark and sinister story behind it. Also, in both films, there are villains who seem sympathetic in some ways. So it’s quite possible that we’ll see a foreshadowing of this suburban Detroit home’s past in the near future.
The story begins where we arrive at this Airbnb house on a stormy midnight with the protagonist, Tess Marshall. Coming to Detroit for a job interview, he has chosen a dangerous night and a worse place to rent. The story gets more complicated when she learns that a young man named Keith accidentally rented the same house through another website and moved in a few days before her. Keith tells her that, with a convention in town, there probably won’t be a spare room to rent, and urges Tess to stay the night, despite her realistic mistrust.
The first part of the film is spent in such an atmosphere full of suspicion and suspense. Keith’s distraught and somewhat anxious state and his attempt to create a safe space for Tess creates more of a sense of threat and insecurity. Keith tries to look good, but the more sincerity and sensitivity he shows, the more suspicious and unusual he seems. Part of the suspense is due to the Norman Bates likeness of the character played by Bill Skashgaard (and, of course, he’s best remembered for his role as Pennywise in the recent adaptations of It). In such a way that in moments we feel that maybe a psychopath is hidden under this kind and harmless appearance of his. On the other hand, Tess portrays a mixture of vulnerability and feminine strength.
The film’s elaborate introduction, which has echoes of Hitchcockian suspense, seems like a portrait of male awkwardness against female mistrust.
Tess is not one of those stupid horror movie characters who fall into every trap the script has prepared for her. He intelligently takes all necessary precautions to stay there for the night. Among other things, he checks Keith’s reservation confirmation and secretly takes a photo of his ID card. But as soon as they spend time together and talk a little about their personal issues, gradually a sense of trust is formed between them. This elaborate beginning, which has a resonance of Hitchcock’s suspense, and seems like a portrait of male abnormality against female mistrust, serves to establish the premise of the film’s insane story line, as well as project the themes of gender and femininity that govern its world.
If we go to the Barbarians without a background, we don’t even know exactly what kind of movie we’re dealing with: a supernatural horror movie? A cursed house movie? A monster movie? Or a slasher?
The two finally spend the night together and the initial feeling of fear and mistrust is replaced by a pleasant experience. However, we still feel the threat, especially after the strange noises heard at night. We know that something bad is going to happen, but we don’t know when and how we will face it. By crafting this suspenseful premise and playing with the classic idea of a woman in trouble, as well as the idea of a house that seems like a cursed and strange place, Kreger keeps the audience in constant suspense until the first surprising plot twist.
Where Tess discovers secret corridors and sinister places (torture chambers) hidden beneath her residence after she accidentally finds herself underground. Gradually we learn that real evil is not going to come from the person we expect. As we later find out, the homeless man who lives in the run-down neighborhood and follows Tess to the door in a menacing way, wanted to save her from the danger that threatens her, not harm her. In this way, Karger cleverly plays with the audience’s perception and terrifies us by maintaining continuous suspense.
What follows is like a cross between Don’t Breathe and Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs. When we find out that a strangely large, terrifying creature lives in that basement. But immediately after showing us this creature in a brief and extremely scary moment, Kreger, in a bold decision to explain what is happening, starts another story. Where we join a Hollywood actor named AJ, played by Justin Long, who is on the verge of being fired from a TV show due to an allegation of sexual harassment by one of his colleagues. He, who soon sees his life and career threatened by the media and public opinion, decides to save himself by selling his assets and launching a legal campaign.
This sudden change and the introduction of a new character that we have not seen before, could cause irreparable damage to the film. Because as soon as the film reaches an alarming climax, everything suddenly stops. But thanks to the charming characterization of the character of AJ and the convincing presence of Justin Long, we soon get along with his story. Although this part does not have the tension of the first part, it still proceeds with an acceptable dose of suspense. Because we still want to know what’s going on in that house. On the other hand, after we find out what AJ has to do with that house, because we have more information about the character this time, the volume of suspense is again raised to a decent level. Also, this part uses a comic tone and biting humor at the same time. Like where the lowly and selfish character of AJ – completely oblivious to the threat that lies near him – after encountering that strange basement, starts measuring it to find out how much his land is worth.
After we reach an alarming climax again, everything stops again and we go in a brief flashback to the Reagan era of the eighties. Once this Detroit neighborhood, now a fringe and desolate place, was a prosperous area for the middle class. In this section, we see a mysterious man played by Richard Brick buying birthing equipment and women’s vision. Pretending to be an electrician, he enters housewives’ homes at hours of the day when they are alone. This ostensibly uneventful short segment has an ominous and unsettling quality to it, even though nothing overtly shocking is shown in it. With this flashback, Kreger tells the background story of this strange house without any extra explanation.
Each of these three parts is a reflection of the patterns of gender violence in different situations and times, which end in a feminist nightmare in the final part. Sections that each have their own special tone and atmosphere. The male characters we meet in each of these sections represent different forms of toxic masculinity. Of course, in the meantime, the account of Keith’s character should be considered separately from these two other characters. Although he has his own stupidities, he is ultimately a harmless being. But AJ and Richard Brick’s character are similar to each other. The scene between the two of them in the final moments of the film emphasizes this connection between the two. Although the character of Richard is portrayed as a complete monster, the hated character of AJ is just another monster that is not far away from him.
As much as Berberian is attractive and surprising in its first two thirds, it is superficial and relatively weak in its final part.
If we go to the Barbarians without a background, we don’t even know exactly what kind of movie we’re dealing with: a supernatural horror movie? A cursed house movie? A monster movie? Or a slasher? Also, the plot of the film oscillates between three exciting, mysterious and scary story patterns. We are constantly waiting to see what happens while watching the movie and this is a key element for a horror movie.
Because it constantly uses our imagination to guess what is happening. But this almost too much reliance of the film on interesting story surprises can reduce the pleasure of watching it the next time. In fact, Berberian is a movie that most likely, the pleasure of watching it for the first time will be noticeably different from other times. Also, some of Kreger’s strategies for creating suspense, such as his way of presenting information, may seem too calculated. While the film is smarter than its narrative in its visual construction and what parts it hides to keep us in suspense.
Barbarian, while not a masterpiece (and far from it), does suggest how to make a good, entertaining horror film.
In addition, as much as Berberian is attractive and surprising in its first two thirds, it is superficial and relatively weak in its final part. But in the end, Berberian can be described as an effective horror film that tells its not-so-virgin story with biting humor without falling into the trap of clichés and extreme jump scares. This alone is enough to put Barbarians in a higher position than many horror films this year. A film that, in its one hundred minute duration, reflects various topics, including women’s paranoia about men, toxic masculinity, gentrification, housing crisis, abandoned and worn-out suburbs of metropolises, the MeToo movement, cancel culture, and similar issues.
Although one of the film’s weaknesses may be that it never expands on any of these ideas, the film’s attempt to point out these issues does not harm its entertainment. Because more than anything else, Kreger has tried to deliver a fun, engaging story and avoids over-explaining his ideas as much as possible. Of course, this problem has made it not so deep in any of the ideas. Barbarian, while not a masterpiece (and far from it), does suggest how to make a good, entertaining horror film.