Every once in a while a horror movie comes along that takes audiences—and the box office—by surprise. Barbarian, written and directed by Zach Cregger and starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long, seems to be 2022’s out-of-nowhere surprise hit thanks to a wildly fun narrative structure with some genuinely jaw-dropping twists and turns. To say more about the film’s story would ruin the fun, and that sort of tight-lipped response from folks recommending the movie is part of the reason the film has grossed over $40 million worldwide on a $4 million budget.
While smaller-budget comedies and dramas tend to fall by the wayside or go directly to streaming these days, horror movies can still drum up big business relative to their ambitions due to the shock and surprise inherent in a good spooky story. The adrenaline-fueled buzz that a particularly jolting scare or some creatively deployed horrific imagery can provide remains a pull for casual audiences just hoping to see something new. Also seeing a horror movie with an audience is one of the best theater experiences since you get to hear your fellow moviegoers gasp and shriek along with all of the biggest scares.
Barbarian isn’t the only horror movie benefitting from strong word of mouth and truly hair-raising scares either, as Paramount Pictures’ Smile is also winning over audiences week after week with its trauma-inducing terror.
Ironically, Barbarian almost didn’t have the chance to be 2022’s surprise hit. Acquired by Disney in the 20th Century Fox deal, the film was slated to debut on Hulu, but after strong test screenings and a premiere at 2022’s San Diego Comic-Con, the positive reception was impossible to ignore. Part of the film’s appeal is its smart, dark sense of humor, which makes sense considering writer/director Cregger was a member of the cult-favorite sketch comedy group The Whitest Kids U’ Know, who had a long-running series on both Fuse and IFC. Cregger is just the latest in what appears to be a trend of comedians having great success in the horror genre, following Jordan Peele, Zoe Lister-Jones, and Danny McBride, who’s co-written the recent Halloween trilogy.
Barbarian’s mischievous sense of play and element of surprise is its greatest asset, and rather than spoil some of the film’s biggest moments in a marketing campaign, Disney wisely played into the mystery and word-of-mouth hype in their ads. That approach has proved to be smart, giving Barbarian legs across multiple weekends. It will be interesting if other films take a “less is more” approach to their own marketing campaigns in the future.
Barbarian: Where to Watch on Streaming
While Barbarian is still playing in multiple cities, and we urge you to catch it on the big screen, the film is now going to be hitting streaming so you can enjoy its devious twists and turns from the comfort of your own home. So where can you watch it? Well, Barbarian is set to begin streaming on Oct. 25, exclusively on HBO Max. The film will also see a digital 4k Ultra HD release, which will include bonus scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and additional commentary.