Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 29/10/2021

BARBARIANS [FrightFest Halloween 2021]

A dinner party takes a sinister turn in this compelling directorial debut from Charles Dorfman (producer of films such as Rabid and VFW).

It’s a birthday get-together for filmmaker Adam (Iwan Rheon) in what will soon be his home with Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno), set in a remote new community, Gateway, built by businessman Lucas (Tom Cullen). His day starts badly when he comes across a dying fox. Adam’s attempt to help it is met with aggression, but when it suddenly appears in his kitchen, he can’t bring himself to put it out of his misery. His wife’s handyman steps in to do the deed, putting a dent in his already fragile masculinity. When Lucas and his girlfriend Chloe (Inès Spiridonov) arrive, the testosterone levels go through the roof as Adam tries to keep up with Lucas’ slick social media savvy persona. As things progress and tensions are stretched, there’s an occurrence no one could expect.

Playing against the type of character he played in Game of Thrones, Rheon is a ‘nice guy’, a pushover, desperately trying to live up to the toxic masculinity all around him. Cullen’s Lucas is everything that is wrong with alpha male characteristics, all talk and out for himself. The ‘punch me there’ type who can’t take it when it’s dished out to him. If the film had focused on the sparring between the two of them alone, it would be entertaining and enthralling enough. That there is another element in the final act adds a cherry on the top of an already great movie.

As well as directing, Dorfman wrote the screenplay, which is astutely observed and throws enough curveballs when you think you know where it’s going. The dialogue is brilliantly natural (how many films can you think of that have a discussion about Brendan Fraser flick California Man?) and the tension builds nicely, allowing scenes to progress at a suitable pace.

Although it’s superb to watch, this is one dinner party you’ll be glad you weren’t invited to.