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Barbarian

Surely one of the grossest and worst executed Chekhov’s guns in cinema history. The worst thing about Barbarian is that I actually found it quite watchable. The film breezed past with the briskness of a Simpsons episode, and it was actually very good at establishing its characters. Within minutes I’d warmed to who the film wanted me to warm to and I’d taken a dislike to who the film wanted me to take a dislike to. Annoyingly though, none of it made any fucking sense.

It starts off with a bit of a false flag. A lone woman, Tess, tries to check into an AirBNB but the keys are missing. Quickly she meets Keith, an overbearing and super attentive lone man who’s booked the same house as her. Obviously the assumption is that he’s dangerous, and there’s a real tension to the whole thing as Tess takes Keith’s suggestion for them to bunk together with him on the couch and her in the bedroom. It all turns into a really sweet miniature love story, and I found myself rooting for them to be together, completing forgetting that the film was a horror. That’s where it stops making any sense.

In order for the plot to progress, nothing works how it should in real life. It starts with a Nissan Leaf (an electric vehicle) that has an engine sound – fair enough, not the biggest problem in the world – but it just spirals into the insane. All of a sudden a tape measure can start in one postcode and end in another for the sake of a jump scare and the characters have figured out exactly how to behave without any cue to be able to. And the film knows that it doesn’t make sense because all of that happens off screen. Everything we need to know is delivered through expositional dialogue and nothing goes anywhere. A huge shame.

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