Barbarian - 4K Ultra HD Streaming ReviewOverview -
Barbarian is a scary and diabolically funny horror movie that changes its pace mid-way through about three different people in an Airbnb. There is enough movie to make many more sequels due to its story setup. But what a wonderful ride this first film was and well acted. The 4K video and the digital 5.1 audio come together nicely, but not in a true hard-copy 4k way. The digital and streaming channels certainly hinder the image and sound a little bit. The bonus features are not long, but they're worth looking at. Recommended for the movie itself.
Arriving in Detroit for a job interview, a young woman books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest. From 20th Century Studios and New Regency, Barbarian stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. Written and directed by Zach Cregger.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
It’s not quite clear yet how actors and filmmakers that have made a name for themselves in comedy go ahead and switch gears and create a horror movie masterpiece. It happened with Jordan Peele in Get Out, Us, and the recent Nope. Zoe Lister-Jones, David Gordon Green, John Krasinski among others have also traveled down this path. Now it’s happened again with actor and director Zach Cregger of The Whitest Kids U'Know, who has successfully made that leap from comedy to horror gold with Barbarian. This brand-new film has all the best elements of horror that transition into other sub-genres fluidly. It’s clear that Cregger knows and understands this horror game because Barbarian is a ton of fun and an immediate big hit.
Cregger has assembled a stellar cast including Georgina Campbell (Krypton, Broadchurch), Justin Long, Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise himself), and others as the film examines the horrors that could culminate after renting a house through Airbnb. Barbarian plays out similarly to three different films, including The Descent, Silence of the Lambs, and most recently Malignant. As Cregger’s film starts out like a normal, typical horror movie that’s high on suspense with a few jump scares, quickly dives into true action-packed horror as Tess (Campbell) arrives at her Airbnb in a bad neighborhood in Detroit, only to find that it’s already inhabited by another renter named Keith (Skarsgard).
The screenplay is smart enough to play on those certain nuanced elements of how two strangers might not trust each other at first and always be on edge. The creepiness is at an all-time high through this segment, which then completely switches into an actor named AJ (Long), who has recently been accused of sexually assaulting his costar on an upcoming pilot, and decides to hightail it to some of his Airbnb properties in order to sell to pay off his lawyers. One of these properties is this particular Detroit abode where AJ gets more than what he bargained for.
Georgina Campbell plays Tessa perfectly. She’s a great blend of showing how terrified she is along with how courageous and brave she can be when she must confront her greatest fears. Skarsgard is always great as well, but it’s with Justin Long where the movie shines. His layered character is utterly brilliant. There hasn’t been a character quite like this before where someone is so villainous, yet so funny and dumb at the same time, and Long plays it out perfectly. Cregger’s eye for horror behind the camera is wonderful as visions of monsters and dark hallways bring a new meaning to terror. Not only that, this horror film is ripe with dark comedy and some over-the-top pieces that are guaranteed to make audiences squeal with glee. Barbarian is a fantastic addition to the horror genre and let’s all hope that Cregger has new plans for many more horror movies on the horizon.
Where To Watch Barbarian on Streaming
After a successful theatrical run, Barbarian creeps up onto streaming platforms in time for the spooky season this Halloween. Sadly, as of this writing no physical media option, DVD, Blu-ray, or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray has been announced. Fans of the film or those looking for a spectacularly creepy flick to watch for the spooky night can rent or purchase the film digitally in 4K Ultra HD through Amazon Prime Video (Linked above), iTunes, or VUDU. Since this is a 20th Century Studio film and under the Disney's purview, it is Movies Anywhere Compatible so buying on Prime will populate the title on all connected services.
You can rent or buy Barbarian on the following services:
VUDU - in 4K Ultra HD with HDR10/Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Digital 5.1
iTunes - in 4K Ultra HD with HDR10/Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Digital 5.1
Prime Video - in 4K Ultra HD with HDR10 and Dolby Digital 5.1
If you have an HBO Max subscription, you can also stream Barbarian but in HD only
Barbarian comes with a 2160p UHD 4K transfer via streaming platforms. Unfortunately, with no physical copy, there's no usual way to review this, but suffice it to say, this image looks as good as it can give the format. The iTunes/Apple TV version relays that this comes with HDR or Dolby Vision, but in the end, when there is streaming, it's not true 4K with those enhanced features. Compression on top of internet connections just creates too many uncomfortable variables that can affect the viewing experience. It can be great, but we know it can be better.
Now for this review, the streaming device and box were hard-wired into its connection at high speed. A lot of the film lives in the darkness in a deep underground basement, so black levels should be this picture's friend. But if you're watching without Dolby Vision, those black levels can be a bit murky and bleed into other elements of the image. There are artifacts and haziness in some of those darkly lit scenes. Banding and aliasing were also an issue in these lower-lit moments. When inside the Airbnb house, the color palette was warm with orange and amber tinted light and beige and brown wooden floors. With Dolby Vision on either VUDU or iTunes, some of these issues are mitigated, but shadow details and shading still produce some unsightly blocking anomalies.
The rainy outside of blues and greens contrasted nicely with that orange home-like glow from inside. Halfway through the film, the story changes pace and gives way to a picturesque exterior of the USA with amazing primary colors of landscapes, buildings, and traveling on a coastline. The one sequence that flashes back to the 1950s has that haunting filter of vague pastels that bring life to those old-time homes. It's almost certain that a physical copy of this film would handle all of the black-level issues and the other problems that creep up, but for this digital-only release, at least for now, this will have to do.
The detail is sharp and vivid, but when in the darker rooms and corridors, the detail can be hindered. But when in normal lighting or even a nighttime exterior shot with a street light, close-ups reveal some gnarly practical makeup effects, gruesome gashes, gore, blood, entrails, and more. Beads of sweat, individual hairs, and textures in clothing and rock are fantastic. At some point, there will be a hard copy of this movie and hopefully with a true 4K image with Dolby Vision.
This digital release comes with a digital 5.1 audio mix. There is no DTS-HD mix nor a Dolby Atmos mix. But what comes through the speakers is suitable. There are some big crescendos in jump scares often and some bigger sound effects that are just as robust. Car engines revving, people screaming, cages rattling, and gunshots going off all sound wonderful. The rain and thunderstorms pack a decent amount of low end where the bass has a nice rumble to it. Quieter sounds of flashlights clicking on and off, frightened breathing, and monstrous roars are all great.
Even the hilarious scene with a tape measure has a great noise to it. The surround speakers come through with creaky house noises and bellowing screams. The score always adds to the suspense of each scene and the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow. Again, a better DTS-HD or Atmos option would only improve this audio presentation.
Depending on where you want to watch Barbarian you may or may not get any bonus features. VUDU and iTunes have the same set of very brief and short extras (detailed below) while the Prime Video release apparently doesn't have any extras at all. Unsurprisingly the HBO Max release also doesn't have any extras. This again is an area where we hope a disc release will offer more to munch on. Apparently, a commentary track has been recorded for a disc release so we'll see how long we'll have to wait to get to listen to that.
- Behind Barbarian (HD, 13 Mins.) - A decent behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with cast and crew interviews, stunts, filming on location, makeup, costumes, and how the story developed. Casting is also looked at.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 8 Mins.) - Four deleted scenes are included. One is with the monster and one takes place during the flashback but were better left on the cutting room floor.
- Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Barbarian is a wonderful and scary addition to the horror genre. It has something great to say, provides some unbelievable laughs, and packs some great frights. The video and audio are okay and satisfying for being only digital at the moment. But the sad and real fact is, a lot of these films under the Disney umbrella might not be getting an immediate hard copy release. This movie deserves to have a proper disc release. We know additional bonus features have been created, so here's hoping we see that disc sooner rather than later. Maybe one of the boutique companies can handle it and deliver the goods we'd love to purchase for our shelves. These bonus features are short but offer a fun insight. Ultimately Barbarian is Recommended for the movie itself.
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