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How A Self-Help Book Inspired The Horror Film “Barbarian”

In the late 90s, security expert Gavin de Becker wrote a book about learning to spot warning signs and trusting your gut to avoid potential danger. That book, The Gift of Fear, became a long-standing best-seller. For writer and director Zach Cregger, it became the inspiration for his new film.

“There was a chapter in the book that was really primarily directed towards women and he was encouraging women to pay attention to these little minor red flags that men can give off in day-to-day situations,” says Cregger. “They can be very innocuous things that you might not notice. Things like complimenting you when it’s not necessarily appropriate or doing you a favor that you didn’t ask for, or touching in a nonsexual way that’s not initiated by you.” According to self-help author de Becker, these are red flags, and “the gift of fear” equips you with the ability to identify potential threats.

Georgina Campbell as Tess in 20th Century Studios’ BARBARIAN, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“I had this epiphany that I don’t ever have to think about that kind of a thing,” says Cregger. “I don’t have to consider that half the population might be somebody that means to do me harm for no reason. I just realized I occupy a completely different psychic landscape than most women do.”

This realization created a desire to write in Cregger. “I didn’t want to write a movie. I just wanted to write a scene where I could load as many of those little tiny red flags into an interaction as possible. It was an exercise for me to do late at night in my garage.”

From the beginning, the scenes he wrote took place in a double-booked Airbnb. “I’ll make this guy really
nice, but I will give him a ton of these little triggers,” says Cregger. He stuck to the rule that if he was surprising himself with his writing, then he has to be surprising his audience. “As long as I have no long plan, then no one could know what’s coming.” Those scene-writing exercises eventually grew into the film Barbarian.

Georgina Campbell as Tess in 20th Century Studios’ BARBARIAN, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Georgina Campbell plays Tess in the movie, a woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview who shows up late at night at a double-booked Airbnb. “Tess was constructed by Zach. He wrote her very well. Everything was there,” Campbell says of her character. She found it easy to prepare for her performance, as so much of it was reacting to the horror going on around her. She did, however, get one particularly important piece of advice from Cregger. “He gave me the book recommendation, which was about fear, so I read that.”

You can catch Barbarian in theaters on September 9, 2022.

About Barbarian

Some stay for a night. Some stay for a week. Some never leave. Barbarian Only In Theaters September 9, 2022.

In “Barbarian,” a young woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked, and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.

From 20th Century Studios and New Regency, “Barbarian” stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler and Jaymes Butler. The film was written and directed by Zach Cregger. The producers are Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules and J.D. Lifshitz. Yariv Milchan, Michael Schaefer, Natalie Lehmann, Danny Chan, Alex Lebovici and Bill Skarsgård are the film’s executive producers.

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