It is still start of a week but it is Halloween and we at Popcorn Reviewss would like to wish you a Happy Halloween. And with it came my horror watchlist which is an absolute must on Halloween. It was hard to pick one film but suddenly my eyes turned to the new English film Barbarian which had premiered on Hotstar last week.
The horror genre requires a good amount of skills to know when to unleash it and when to let go. The atmospherics play such an important role here which often is diluted by needless jumpscares. But off late I have seen a trend of old school horror films(especially slasher ones) making a comeback of sorts. Those films were our bread and butter and they definitely do have a sense of nostalgia to them. And with Barbarian which had a glowing word of mouth, I was expecting nothing less from it. So then does Barbarian scare the living daylights out of you, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Barbarian follows the story of a young tenant who finds out that an apartment that she has booked has mistakenly been double booked by a stranger. But nothing is what it seems! The story is true to its genre and often keeps subverting the audience in one direction before changing its tonality completely. In other words, there is more than what meets the eye here. The screenplay standing at just about a 100 minutes is the perfect length for a horror film. More so, it ensures that the drama is crisp and just does not drag.
The first thing that I did notice about the drama was its spectacular setting that was so inviting for the viewer. With rain around and a female protagonist at the centre of it, the drana did get off to a flyer of a start! Soon a stranger is also introduced and you can make out that something is amyss! But things are so organic and unassuming here. The behavior of the young stranger is exactly how I would have reacted to the situation yet there was a part of me that found him creepy. But that was just the start.
The drama is absolutely thrilling and filled with twists and turns that will keep you invested. It draws the viewer into believing a certain fact before completely flipping the tale on its head in the very next scene. What I also enjoyed was its terrific tonal shift. From an intimidating basement shot in the dark, there is a sudden shift to a highway next to the sea on a sunny day where a completely separate(and unrelated to begin with) tale begins to unfold. I almost did pause the film as I thought I may have accidently started a new film. But it was the same film that beautifully joins the dots!
There are atleast a couple of jumpscare moments but not before a beautiful buildup filled with the right kind of atmosphere that is creepy and intimidating. Even the grand revelation was sudden where the focus never shifted from the tension generated in the current timeframe. Usually we are accustomed to a flashback that saps every bit of the tension from the drama. One small letdown was the final act which was underwhelming and far too simplistic. A little more buildup and a layered narrative would not have hurt. But taking nothing away from the screenplay which is a winner all the way!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are almost conversational in nature and they did not seem over dramatic or out of place. The BGM was good for a horror film and sparingly used in conjunction with the atmosphere of the film. The cinematography is top notch and perfectly captures a few frames filled with the right amount of tension. Director Zack Cregger does swirling job here in constantly teasing the audience and leading them one way before turning them around. It was almost as if the viewer was blind folded and just relying on the sound of the director before the latter turned wicked! Distinction marks to the direction!
The performances are excellent here. Bill Skarsgard as Keith teases the audience really well. Justin Long as AJ is first rate. Georgina Campbell as Tess is outstanding and really shines in a towering act. All the other actors are pretty good!
Barbarian is an unassumingly smart and chilling horror thriller that is a perfect watch this Halloween season! Available on Hotstar.