Flix at :48: 'Barbarian' chooses campy silliness over believability
The odds of me praising a current day horror or thriller movie are the same as the odds of me loving an Adam Sandler movie. And for those of you out there who don't yet understand my tone, those odds are low. They'll continue to remain low thanks to the new horror movie "Barbarian" from writer, director, actor Zach Cregger ("The Civil War on Drugs," 2011).
When a young woman arrives at her rental home while visiting Detroit, the situation gets awkward when another guest is already staying in the home. The ordinary house is not what it seems when the young woman discovers locking doors, pitch-black underground tunnels and dripping breast milk. "Barbarian" starts out with enough promise slowly building the mystery and tension. And then that promise is put into a burning car and driven off the cliff of reality and believability in favor of campy silliness and over-the-top violence.
So this sub-genre of goofy, scary and bloody horror films doesn't seem to be going away and continues to be popular enough to still make money. But being such a mish-mash of emotional tones, from nervousness to idiocy to fear to laughter, I don't get why this horror sub-genre should be viewed as legitimate as other sub-genres. "Barbarian" feels like it doesn't want to decide what kind of movie it is or even what it's about. Yes, it has some effective jump scares and surprises. It also has a lot of time spent on characters' backstories and a lot of shallow attempts at predictable jokes. (Do the backstories help build a connection between the audiences in the theater and the characters on screen? No, because these backstories are either too boring or too heinous.)
Being such a blatantly schizophrenic story, and trying to check so many boxes of topical issues (like the #MeToo movement, inept police officers and economic despair), I'm struggling with a few questions. Are audiences supposed to be on the edge of their seats for this one? Are they supposed to giggle to themselves at all the campiness and impossible death scenes? Are they encouraged to think about what's even happening? For movies like this I don't think it matters, because audiences paid money for tickets ... and that's what really matters.