And yet... and yet. Perhaps Martyrs hasn't been so influential these fourteen years on because of the "and yet" that I am feeling here about Barbarian. Because of the Martyrs-shaped crater that Martyrs detonated inside of my skull it's sort of kind of unfair to any movie that comes along and tries to emulate it, even in the smart ways Barbarian plays at. Foremost, tonally Barbarian only pokes its nose lightly at that kind of bleakness -- it's much more of a "ride" movie, with you know, "jokes" and "entertainment," none of which Martyrs had much use for.
And because of that, like with Martyrs, Barbarian is a sort of difficult movie to write about without spoiling. Even addressing its structure like this makes me sad -- going in I had no idea it was this sort of movie and I hate to take that from anybody, and that's before I have even whispered a whisper of plot! Let's just say that Barbarian will reveal itself to not be the movie you think it is going to be about three times, and each rug-pull is a little delight -- this movie is "Fun!" and "Scary!" and all of that stuff, really. I'm just so nerd king captain of Team Martyrs that it's hard not to feel, somewhere inside, that I was watching the miracles of Laugier's achievement be watered down, ever so slightly.
Because (to borrow the terminology of the MPAA for a second) there is Brutality and there is Adult Theme to Barbarian, but it's all in service of Movie Thrills. It feels manufactured, where Martyrs felt unleashed. Like a nightmare loosed. Like proper sin turned cinema. And as much as Cregger is clearly trying to make an entertaining Horror Movie here -- his intent is clearly very different from Laugier's -- my mind just kept nagging at me that maybe some of the stuff he's poking at here shouldn't be made entertaining? Maybe Martyrs was the only proper way to poke at some of this stuff. Walking out of Barbarian on a Movie High, laughing, just felt untoward somehow. Dirty wrong, not dirty right.