Barbarian (2022 film)

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Albert Flores

Barbarian is a 2022 American horror film written and directed by Zach Cregger (in his solo directorial debut). It is produced by Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules, and J.D. Lifshitz. The film stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. The story sees a young woman find out that the rental house she reserved has been accidentally double-booked with a man, while not knowing of a dark secret within the home.

Barbarian premiered at San Diego Comic-Con on July 22, 2022, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 9, 2022, by 20th Century Studios. The film was a critical success, with reviewers praising Cregger's screenplay and direction as well as the cast performances (particularly that of Campbell). +more It was a sleeper hit at the box office, grossing over $43 million worldwide against a $4. 5 million budget.

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Plot

Coming into town for a job interview, Tess Marshall books a remote house in the rundown Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor. Tess finds it has been double-booked when she arrives to the house and finds it is already occupied by a young man named Keith. +more Initially unnerved by Keith, Tess warms up to him and decides to stay the night.

The next morning, Keith leaves for the day, and Tess goes to her interview. She returns to the house and is chased inside by a homeless man yelling that she must leave. +more She ventures into the basement and gets locked downstairs, and stumbles upon a hidden corridor.

There, Tess finds a room with a camcorder, a stained mattress, and bloody handprints. Tess backtracks and tries to leave but is still locked in the basement. +more Keith arrives and frees her. Tess tells Keith what she has seen, and he goes into the basement to investigate. When he does not return, Tess returns downstairs and discovers that the hidden corridor she had initially found leads to a subterranean tunnel, where she hears Keith screaming for help. She enters the tunnel and finds an injured Keith. The pair are attacked by a naked deformed woman, who brutally kills Keith.

Sometime later, actor AJ Gilbride learns he has been fired from his television series due to rape allegations made by a co-star. Pressured to sell his assets to pay for legal costs, AJ travels to a rental property he owns in Detroit: the same house that Tess and Keith rented. +more He goes out that night and in speaking with an old friend, it is implied that his sexual encounter was not consensual. The next day, AJ inspects the house and eventually discovers the hidden tunnel. The deformed woman attacks him and he falls into a pit alongside Tess, who explains that the woman (referred to as "the Mother") wants them to act as her children.

When AJ refuses to drink milk from the Mother's bottle, she drags him away and forces him to breastfeed. Tess escapes the house by breaking a basement window. +more She eventually reaches a gas station and is able to call the police. The officers are dismissive of her story, but she convinces them to go back to the house with her. The police refuse to investigate the house before being called away, attributing Tess' story and behavior to drug use.

A flashback to the 1980s shows the house's original owner, Frank, who abducted women and held them captive in the tunnel. He would use the hidden room to videotape himself raping them, then raise the subsequent children. +more Back in the present, AJ discovers a decrepit Frank living further in the tunnel. Initially believing Frank to be another victim of the Mother, AJ assures Frank that the police will come to investigate. Frank discreetly retrieves a hidden revolver as AJ discovers the tapes, and Frank kills himself. AJ flees with the gun while the Mother leaves the house to find Tess. Tess runs her car into the Mother, seemingly killing her. Tess returns to the basement to rescue AJ, but he accidentally shoots her. The two escape the house and find shelter with Andre, the homeless man who had chased her earlier.

Andre explains that the Mother is a product of multigenerational incest by Frank. The Mother ambushes the group and kills Andre before chasing Tess and AJ up a water tower. +more AJ pushes Tess off the tower to save himself, and the Mother jumps after Tess, shielding her from the fall. As AJ attempts to apologize to Tess, the Mother awakens and kills him. The Mother wants to take Tess back to the house, but she shoots and kills the Mother and stumbles away as the sun rises.

Cast

Production

Zach Cregger was inspired by the non-fiction book The Gift of Fear, citing a section that encourages women to trust their intuition and not ignore the subconscious red flags that arise in their day-to-day interactions with men. He sat down to write a single thirty-page scene that would incorporate as many of these red flags as possible. +more Cregger settled on a woman showing up to an Airbnb late at night, only to find that it had been double booked, as the ideal set-up for this exercise, with a rule about having to surprise the audience if he were surprising himself with the writing.

He became frustrated during the writing process, fearing the direction of the story was too predictable. So Cregger, with no forethought, decided to introduce a twist that would "flip [the scene] on its head. +more".

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While writing the screenplay, Cregger named the film Barbarian as a placeholder. As the story progressed, the name eventually became the title of the film.

Early in pre-production, Cregger reportedly reached out to multiple financiers and distributors, including A24 and Neon, but was rejected. +moreD. _Lifshitz'>J. D. Lifshitz and Raphael Margules agreed to produce the film through their BoulderLight Pictures company, and were later joined by Vertigo Entertainment, after Lifshitz and Margules reached out to Vertigo's Roy Lee who had served as an early mentor to the duo. In mid-2020, Lifshitz and Margules accrued a $3. 5 million budget for the film, largely through foreign financing, most of it from the French production company Logical Pictures.

Zac Efron was the first choice for the role of AJ, whom Cregger initially envisioned as a "beefcake kind of himbo." However, when Efron turned down the part, Cregger decided to take the image of the character in a different direction and chose Justin Long for his "warm and disarming and charming, lovable presence onscreen" which he thought would make the role more engaging to audiences.

That same year, Lee brought in Bill Skarsgård, who had previously worked with Lee in It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019), to co-star and serve as an executive producer. Barbarian began principal photography in early 2021 in Bulgaria. +more The film was shot in Sofia, while exterior neighborhood shots beyond the house's block were filmed in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. In April 2021, Logical's founder and the film's main financier Eric Tavitian, died from cancer. Unsure of the film's future, Lee secured financial backing from New Regency who increased the budget to $4. 5 million, and as a result, 20th Century Studios became the film's distributor, stemming from a prior distribution deal between Regency and Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century's parent division.

Release

Barbarian was originally scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States by 20th Century Studios on August 12, 2022, before being rescheduled to be released on August 31, and later September 9. Disney reportedly maintained a theatrical release for Barbarian (as opposed to a streaming release on Hulu) due to strong, positive reception from studio test screenings.

CinemaBlend and AMC Theatres premiered the film at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con on July 22, where it garnered positive reactions. The film was also screened at the Arrow Video FrightFest on August 29. +more The film was released on October 20, 2022 in Australia, on October 27 in New Zealand, and on October 28 in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, Barbarian was released on digital download and to stream on HBO Max beginning on October 25. It was also released on Star+ in Latin America and on Disney+ as part of the Star content hub in other international territories on October 26, 2022

Marketing

The first trailer for the film was released on June 23, 2022, and appeared at the front of theatrical screenings of The Black Phone. According to Margules, Disney marketed the film to "feel like a discovery" and teasing very little of the film's plot in promotional materials.

After the film's release, an alternative trailer was released on September 23, playfully portraying the film as "Justin Long's New Movie" before transitioning into the more horrific scenes.

Reception

SVOD viewership

According to the streaming aggregator Reelgood, Barbarian was the 5th most watched program across all platforms, during the week of October 26, 2022. According to Whip Media, Barbarian was the most streamed film across all platforms in the United States, for the week ending October 30, 2022.

Box office

, Barbarian has grossed $40.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $43.4 million, against a production budget of $4.5 million.

In the United States and Canada, Barbarian was released alongside Brahmāstra: Part One - Shiva and Lifemark, and made $3. 9 million from 2,340 theaters on its first day, including $850,000 from Thursday night previews. +more It went on to debut to $10 million, topping the box office; 59% of the audience was male, with 74% being between 18-34. The film made $6. 3 million in its second weekend, finishing behind newcomer The Woman King. Deadline Hollywood called the 40% week-to-week drop "pretty spectacular", noting that horror films typically see a 65% decline in their sophomore frames. The film was added to 550 theaters in its third weekend and made $4. 8 million, finishing fourth at the box office.

Critical response

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave the film a 70% overall positive score, with 54% saying they would definitely recommend it.

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