When anyone asks me how I heard about Barbarian, now streaming on HBO, I tell them what everyone else says – word of mouth.
The horror movie debut from writer/director Zach Cregger kind of snuck up on all of us. When Barbarian hit theaters mid-September, a so-called dead zone for new releases, it caught on quick with audiences. With a cryptic title, and a trailer that divulges nothing beyond the first act, news spread of Barbarian heavily via word of mouth reactions.
Cregger wrote Barbarian in his garage “late at night” and saw it dismissed by nearly every studio and production company in Hollywood. The companies that did express interest, however, wanted the filmmaker to rewrite or remove “all the left-field” script elements that critics are now applauding for it’s originality.
The script started out after Cregger read the Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear,” which encourages women to trust their intuition when confronted by obviously dangerous men. Cregger described the eventual duality of the film’s visual presentation as “a Fincher movie on the top floor” and “a Raimi movie under the house.” You had me at Fincher.
The plot is simple – a woman staying at an Airbnb discovers that the house she has rented is not what it seems. The film never underlines who the titular barbarian is, but instead asks you to pin the label.
“Recently released X is inspired by slasher movies and exploitation flicks of the period, while Barbarian breaks apart tropes of contemporary ‘elevated” horror.’ via Buzzfeed News
“That narrative arc, of course, willfully disregards the standard three-act movie structure and abruptly shifts gears — and characters — about 40 minutes in. ‘I made a spreadsheet of every production company that had made a horror movie in the last 15 years and sent it out to all of them, and every one of them said no,’ Cregger tells Vulture. “They didn’t like that the movie resets on page 50. They didn’t like that there’s a character who’s part of Hollywood. All of these things that people were picking on, especially the lack of a structure, were the things that excited me the most. I knew that if I were to polish those edges, I would be compromising this thing and defanging it before it had a chance.” via Vulture
If Barbarian does anything right, it capitalizes on the thing viewers fear most…the unknown. The horror genre is difficult to fully invest in with countless titles coming out, but Barbarian presents something newly original and worth your time from a first-time director.