Barbarian: from laughter to tears (of terror)

Barbarian: From Laughter to Tears (of Terror)

MISE &Agrave ; DAY

After more than a decade of making moviegoers and viewers laugh, Zach Cregger is now seeking to elicit a completely different reaction: dread. Two emotions diametrically opposed in theory, but which are based on “surprisingly similar” mechanisms, according to the American filmmaker.

“The exercise is quite similar for fear and laughter: it's all about timingand tone. And in both cases, it's about subverting moviegoers' expectations and going in the opposite direction to what they're anticipating. So I really feel like my work in comedy prepared me to take the leap into horror, ”explains Zach Cregger in videoconference. 

And he knows what he is talking about. Marked with a hot iron by the horror classics – The Audition, Takashi Miike's masterpiece, is among his greatest inspirations – it was only a matter of time before he himself descended into outright horror. This is what he is doing today with Barbarian, a first foray into the field, for which he is directing and writing the screenplay. 

Flags red

It was reading the book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence a few years ago that ignited the spark of this new project. 

“One chapter encouraged women to look for each of the red flags, those warning signs of toxic behavior that some men plant in them and we ignore at our peril. And it struck me: as a man, I don't have to spend an ounce of my energy trying to detect a threat in the opposite sex, says Zach Cregger.

He n However, he had no initial intention of devoting an entire film to this subject. By his own admission, he simply wanted to cogitate this realization and write “a scene where a hyper-vigilant woman meets a man who arouses in her this kind of suspicion”. 

Thus, Barbarian presents us from its opening Tess, a young woman who arrives in the middle of the night – rainy, moreover – in a house rented by Airbnb. The problem? A man is already installed there, having also reserved the same residence by means of another site of the same kind. She will still agree to wait until the early morning sheltered from the storm in the company of this enigmatic stranger.

Bill Skarsgård in the role of Keith.

Brutal and shocking

The plot originally ended here. But obsessed with this bait, Zach Cregger gave free rein to his imagination. Thus, Tess will finally discover a well-hidden secret in the basement of the said house which, for her, will contain greater dangers than this improbable encounter. 

Impossible to reveal more without revealing certain twists , cornerstones of the plot of Barbarian. However, we can reveal one thing: the events that follow are particularly brutal, disturbing and shocking. That, the filmmaker is well aware of. He laughs moreover when it is pointed out to him that he jumps with both feet into the world of horror, without lace or compromise. 

“I didn't necessarily think of the side violent or disturbing. I followed my instinct, I simply wrote what I myself would like to see on the screen”, he says.

At era of Jordan Peele

But Barbariandoes not use outrageous violence for the simple pleasure of shocking. The filmmaker himself points out that it continually serves his plot, rather than being used for free as some of his peers did several years ago. 

“Horror went through a dark period where we had a lot of movies where the torture and the violence were devoid of meaning or plot. But Jordan Peele ushered in a new era with Get Out: he raised the quality standards for horror films, opening the door to Hereditary or Sainte Maude. It's not up to me to decide if I join this new elite, but I certainly aspire to it,” says Zach Cregger. 

With Barbarian in theaters since yesterday, the public can now make this decision themselves. 

The film Barbarian is currently showing in the original English version.