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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Criticism: ‘Barbarian’ Review

Barbarian Film Poster
Via IMDb
Barbarian Film Poster

Rating: 2/5

We all know that horror movie characters are notorious for making the worst decisions, and Zach Cregger’s thriller “Barbarian” is no different. When Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, steps into an Airbnb during a late-night thunderstorm, the audience becomes increasingly irritated by all the obvious “don’ts” she does. There’s no reason you should stay in a double-booked Airbnb with a Norman Bates-type director, but that’s what she does. From descending basement stairs that scream terrible news to opening grimy, mysterious doors and stumbling into the dark instead of running to authorities, “Barbarian” is rife with characters lacking common sense. 

Still, “Barbarian” offers the unexpected by progressing into a wildly unpredictable narrative of engrossing encounters that confuse, anger, disgust and scare audiences all at once. Barbarian is a nerve-wracking, inventive film that excels at unpredictability, but its inability to drive its core message home ultimately fails to keep audiences hooked.

Admittedly, the reasonable 2 out of 5 ratings wildly disagree with what most critics believe. Being certified fresh by a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and scoring a 7.5 out of ten on IMDb, Barbarian has left many viewers wanting more.

As a movie that doesn’t overly rely on jump scares or violin crescendo sound effects to build anticipation, “Barbarian” stands out in many ways. According to the Rolling Stones, “while Barbarian‘s unexpected popularity outside of die-hard genre circles can be attributed to old-fashioned, organic word of mouth, it’s also a first-rate horror movie, full stop.”

This movie can be considered “first-rate” mainly due to its unexpectedness. Audiences are led from the very beginning to question the characters’ intentions, setting the stage for a film filled with misdirection, red herrings and dramatic plot twists. Unlike most horror movies with an obvious antagonist, “Barbarian” leaves us unsure who to trust.

According to a movie review by Wall Street Journal, Cregger “painfully builds suspense in the early scenes, expertly misdirects the audience about the nature of one of his lead characters, makes brutality more effective by springing it on us out of nowhere, and displays a properly mordant sense of humor.” 

The Wall Street Journal’s review praised Cregger’s ability to spin an unpredictable narrative based on clever, inventive camera tricks to captivate and ensnare viewers. 

Nevertheless, the movie’s biggest flaw is its attempt to weave complex social issues within the limited framework of the thriller and horror genre. As “Barbarian” tries to shed light on the dark underbelly of American domesticity and complacency, it ends up losing its message. Ultimately, it’s a disemboweled movie with a silly, hollow payoff.  As one movie critic wrote, “Despite [Barbarian’] social-commentary ambitions, [it] is so weak that it can’t shake that stench of imitation that clings to the whole thing.”

While most of a movie’s plot may be engaging, a weak conclusion can turn viewers off, which was, unfortunately, the case for this movie. While the thriller creates an oppressive atmosphere and fair suspense, the trapped-in-a-house horror plot fails to hold up until the end.
 

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