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Don’t go down to the basement. Rule number one of surviving a horror movie, right? One of the many miracles of Barbarian – the debut feature from writer-director Zach Cregger that became one of the year’s biggest hits – was how it took one of the most tried and tested tropes of the genre and managed to weave something so surprising and unpredictable out it. The film – much like the basement-dwelling creature at the heart of the movie – roared out of the shadows following a low budget production in Bulgaria to become a box office-topping behemoth admired by everyone from Stephen King and Jordan Peele. Driving its success was good old fashioned word-of-mouth, as moviegoers implored their friends to rush to the cinema to experience a story that needs to be seen to be believed; whose twists it’s near-impossible to be braced for.
It might not surprise you to learn that such an unusual film was written in an unusual way. As you’ll discover in this episode, the movie began as one scene. A woman, Tess, checks into an Airbnb, only to discover there’s someone else already inside. There, she must decode a situation fraught with potential danger. Is the man she’s marooned in the apartment with a friend or a threat? Cregger wrote the scene unsure where it was leading until eventually, his subconscious took over. The rest of the movie, as you’ll hear, spilled out of him intuitively as he asked himself: what’s the most surprising thing that could happen now?
If you haven’t seen the film, pause this episode until you’ve experienced Barbarian for yourself. If you’re up to speed, listen on for fascinating revelations about how Cregger’s own experience of an alcoholic father quietly informed the script, why it was important to leave no ambiguity around the true nature of Justin Long’s character AJ and what the film expresses about toxic masculinity, as well as his original ending for the movie.
Script Apart is hosted by Al Horner and produced by Kamil Dymek. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or email us on email@example.com.
Support for this episode comes from ScreenCraft, Arc Studio Pro and WeScreenplay.
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