The Films That Influenced Zach Cregger's ‘Barbarian’

Barbarian, written and directed by Zach Cregger, is now playing in theaters.

In the film,

In town for a job interview, a young woman arrives at her Airbnb late at night only to find that it has been mistakenly double-booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to stay the night anyway, but soon discovers that there is much more to be afraid of in the house than the other house guest.

There’s a thousand movies that go into every movie. I can’t possibly list ’em all but here’s what leaps out at me when I think back.

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Check out the full list on Horrorville here.

AUDITION - This is the closest thing to a spiritual ancestor that Barbarian could claim. Takashi Miike’s 1999 masterpiece subverts structure, comments brilliantly on male privilege, and is shocking as hell. I love this movie.

EVIL DEAD 2 - Joyful camera work. Horror that’s not afraid to be silly. Sam Raimi is brilliant. There’s 2 shots in Barbarian that are direct homage’s to this film. The camera passing through the car window in the opening shot (and the flashback). And the camera following Justin as he sprints down he hallway and turns left is just me paying homage to Bruce sprinting through the guts of the house and turning left. Hi Sam. I love you.

DRAG ME TO HELL - The tone of this, like Evil Dead 2, is just bliss to me. Horror that’s scary. Silliness that feels right at home. Great movie. The fight in the car garage is fantastic. 

RAISING ARIZONA - This came out around the same time as Evil Dead 2 and together they inspired a generation to get aggressive with the camera. Well, me anyways. This movie made me dead set on being a filmmaker. 

BAD BEN - OK this is a big one. This movie was put together by Nigel Bach for basically free ($300). Nigel Bach is a middle aged dude from New Jersey and he made this film by himself in his house. It has some of the most effective suspense sequences and I legitimately adore this film. He taught me that just moving slowly through a space can be exhilarating and I brought his pacing to my scene where Tess moves through the basement. Keeping your eyes in the characters POV is so much more terrifying than watching their faces. Thank you, Nigel. You’re a king.

CARNAL KNOWLEDGE - There’s a scene in this movie where Candace Bergen is sitting at a bar talking with friends and the camera never leaves her. The friends do most of the talking off camera and she’s just reacting. It’s a very effective moment and it forces you to study her all the more closely when she’s just listening. We stole this for the bar scene where AJ is explaining his sexual conflict with his shitty friend (played by me).

ANGST - This movie is not for the faint of heart. But the visual style that they employ is genius and I made my DP watch it so we could do something similar in our flashback sequence. They use a snorricam which we decided to forgo but the wide angle lenses circling the subject gives you a sense of anticipation that I’ve never seen before. Worth a study but if you are at all sensitive to… anything, be warned. 

ELEPHANT - This is a little known gem about the troubles that was made for TV in Ireland. There’s no real story structure and it’s a patient mediation on violence that builds a sense of anticipation in a way I’ve never seen before. Gus Van Sandt paid homage with his ELEPHANT and that movie is one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had watching anything. The dread present in his film is almost more than I could stand so of course I’m gonna use that.

THE DESCENT - Neil Marshalls use of natural light is great. No shitty artificial 90’s movie lighting. Just practical. Also some ghouls that are genuinely terrifying. I remember leaving the theater with my girlfriend and we both felt shellshocked walking to the subway. Did not want to go underground.

IT COMES AT NIGHT - A perfect visual movie. Darks are dark. The way this movie explores physical space is inspired. Drew Daniels is a diamond.

TRUE ROMANCE - Just the one scene in this movie - the Hollywood Douche drives a convertible down the PCH in Malibu while talking on his phone. Justin doesn’t have a ton of cocaine all over him but it’s pretty damn close. Great scene.

BURN AFTER READING - AJ’s chapter for whatever reason makes me think of this movie. We used Carter Burwells score to temp this chunk and it just feels great. No one knows how to shoot a man sitting behind a desk as well as the Coens do. I could list just about any movie they’ve ever made and there’s a perfectly captured scene where a man sits behind a desk and it’s framed gloriously. How do they do it? Why can’t I do that? What is the goddamn secret? One day I’ll figure it out. Not today, but one day.

PSYCHO - Obviously the unique structure and the entire cat and mouse of the first act is deeply indebted to Hitchcock's masterpiece. Bill’s performance is an homage to Anthony Perkins in my mind. Also the ‘Mother’ as villain must come from this on some level.

IRREVERSIBLE - If you’ve seen this movie, then you know about the fire extinguisher. My goal for Keith’s death was to approximate this grizzly head bashing. Didn’t quite get there but this was the model. That is still maybe the most insane piece of movie violence I’ve ever seen.

LOST HIGHWAY - Any Lynch movie could live on this list but LH uses the ‘Lynch white noise’ the most aggressively so I’ll cite that one. The heavy dreadful whirring that Lynch lays over his films gives them a menace that feels deep and cosmic. I know that the moment Tess opens the deepest doorway in Barbarian it was time for that sound to take us to hell. Lynch also inspired me with his book ‘Catching the Big Fish’ which inspired me to incorporate Transcendental Meditation into my writing process. Barbarian is a product of the subconscious mind I think it’s stronger for it. 

BRAINDEAD - Peter Jackson knows where to put the camera. This film shows his visual genius and his absolute glee at being revolting. God bless him and his wide angle lenses that he shoves into his subjects faces.

GONE GIRL/ZODIAC/FIGHT CLUB - Fincher. All day every day. His color palette is so subtle that it somehow pops out the other end and becomes aggressive. I love how he lights interiors in this movies. I love how he moves the camera with his subjects as if the two were connected physically. My rule for Barbarian was Fincher upstairs, Raimi downstairs. 

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - Masterpiece with a pit in the basement where a woman is held hostage? Of course we’re talking about Silence of the Lambs. Also my favorite needle drop ever.

GET OUT - Jordan’s a genius. This is a perfect movie and it gave me permission to change genres, write for myself, be funny and have something to say. He opened the door. 

THE SHINING - First horror movie to ever scare me. I’ve been chasing that feeling of watching Danny turn left and find the twins for the rest of my life. Kubrick. Kubrick forever. 

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