Zach Cregger may be best known for his humour, particularly from the sketch comedy show The Whitest Kids U' Know, but now he’s brought us a truly shocking horror film with Barbarian (in theatres Sept. 9), starring Georgina Campbell, Justin Long and Bill Skarsgård.
“I didn't know where it was going to go as I was writing it,” Cregger told Yahoo Canada. “I didn't want to write a movie, I wanted to write just one scene where I could load as many micro-red flags into an interaction as I possibly could.”
“So I thought a double booked Airbnb was a fun scenario,...and then as I went along, and I started to kind of shape it up, I started to like it more and more… My only rule for myself is to surprise myself because if I don't know where it's going, there's no way the audience could know where it's going. I just kept that as my North Star and this is what came out of it.”
What is 'Barbarian' about?
Barbarian introduces us to Tess (Georgina Campbell), who is having trouble getting into an Airbnb she booked in Detroit for a job interview she has in the city. Turns out, someone named Keith (Bill Skarsgård) also booked the home, and he got there first. The pair decide to both stay at the property overnight, in separate rooms, but Tess is woken up in the middle of the night by some suspicious activity.
The home is actually owned by Hollywood actor AJ (Long), who is the epitome of a toxic, entitled white male. When he’s been accused of sexual assault by a co-star, AJ has to start liquidating his assets, which brings him to his home in Detroit.
To spoil any of the scares would be cruel but we will say that this film will not only have you shocked, but it also leans into the gruesome. Zach Cregger revealed there was initially even more gruesome content that was left out of the movie, particularly for Long.
“Some of the more gruesome scenes were actually cut from the movie,” Cregger said.
“[Justin Long] was so game...I took certain scenes out of the script when I sent it to him because I didn't want him to be put off, I wanted him to say yes, then when he showed up on set I would see if I could kind of maybe cajole him into doing certain things.”
While all the characters carry this tense film well, pairing the horror with the breathe of lighter, comedic elements, Georgina Campbell really stands out in the story, both because of her performance and the larger, cultural reflection her character adds to the story.
“She's just so natural and gifted, and has this really incredible, empathetic quality that lets you just kind of beam into her, and I was over the moon when she said yes to this part,” Cregger said.
“The point of the movie is the different psychic landscapes that men and women occupy, and the idea that they're both experiencing the same trajectory and yet he sees it as greed and she sees it as a threat, that's what the movie is about.”
While this may seem like a departure for Cregger, he’s always been a fan of horror, but stressed that horror and comedy are actually “very closely related.”
“They're both about subverting expectations and timing, and so they're not dissimilar in my mind,” he explained. “My favourite horror movies let you laugh, when they want you to laugh, and so it's all about tension and release.”