Dir. Zach Cregger
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Some films defy expectation, some massively disappointed and others simply throw away the rulebook. BARBARIAN is exactly that and in doing so earns kudos but simultaneously throws so much at the screen that it becomes a violent mess of hits and misses.
Like THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, last year's MALIGNANT and the classic FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, BARBARIAN absorbs you into a mesmeric character building road trip along the highway and while cruising comfortably along, out comes an 18-wheeler to the side and wipes out the car.
For those enjoying the ride, saddled in with a tense and unwinding pairing of Georgina Campbell and Bill Bill Skarsgård, there's much to get into and the mystery is as gripping as it is tense which, for all it's intents and purposes is perhaps BARBARIAN's biggest problem. Unlike MALIGNANT and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, the rest of Zach Cregger's film just doesn't quite up the ante and as such it feels like a come down.
It's as if the performances up until the halfway point are simply disregarded to introduce a new storyline in the most annoyingly frustrating ways possible. While the film touches on real world issues, especially those bought to life by the #MeToo movement, the way they are executed is frankly insulting and handled in such a way that it's mentioned, disregarded and the issue becomes a pivot to basically explain away a bad person. At the same time, the character development is jarring from asshole to comedic light relief literally within one scene, the film doesn't flow as smoothly as it should.
There's much to like, without treading onto spoiler territory, the introduction of Richard Brake is an interesting transition and one that could have been expanded further and while the discovery of a secret basement has plenty to tear up claustrophobics, the rest of the film is played for fun, completely losing any sincerity in the twist. It's ironic that while played for laughs, there are so many darker and meaningful themes that are touched on but amount to very little, meaning the heart of the film is lost.
BARBARIAN throws it to the wind and like a car driving off the edge of a cliff, sometimes it lands on four wheels before bouncing back in the air but in the end, that journey the film begins on, ends up in flames.