Georgina Campbell in Barbarian.

Director Zach Cregger makes a solid horror debut with Barbarian, a twisted story that does a nice job with scares, laughs and surprises.

By using a discombobulated timeline, Cregger has the viewer constantly guessing about what’s going on. By mixing in scares akin to the best moments in classics such as The Descent, Cregger shows he knows what it takes to make one’s blood run cold.

Tess (a terrific Georgina Campbell) has rented a place in the middle of Detroit; when she shows up, the suspicious character Keith (Bill Skarsgard…yes, Pennywise himself) is already there and says he’s got the place reserved. It’s a rainy night, and all of the hotel rooms in town are booked, so, of course, Tess chooses to stay the night with a stranger, because that’s what people do in a horror movie.

I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, so the jumps and horror elements all took me wonderfully by surprise—so I am not going to give anything else away. The success of this movie depends on you knowing very little going in.

I will praise the film’s technical prowess (especially the lighting), performances (Campbell, Skarsgard and others are perfectly cast) and soundtrack as exemplary, overwhelmingly making this one of the year’s better horror offerings.

Cregger doesn’t have any other directorial projects on his slate just yet, but I imagine his work here will get him good work in the future. Barbarian snuck up on me—and it got me good.

Barbarian is playing at theaters across the valley.

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