The Key Barbarian Scene That Was Added Thanks To Feedback From Early Test Screenings

MAJOR SPOILERS are ahead for Barbarian, now playing in theaters. 

Barbarian is one of those horror movies you don’t just watch, you experience. And in the case of this film, not only critics are digging it, audiences are walking out of theaters calling Barbarian “crazy” and “rare.” No wonder the movie started off the spooky season with a No. 1 debut at the box office over the weekend. Before Barbarian opened to such high praise, writer/director Zach Cregger spoke to CinemaBlend about how test screening benefitted the movie ahead of its theatrical release. 

During our Barbarian interviews, which also include the film’s stars Justin Long and Georgina Campbell, Zach Cregger informed us about how test screenings were beneficial to the horror movie. In his words: 

There's a testing process that you go through when you make a movie with a studio. So, you go to a big theater packed with regular folks who hopefully have some interest in horror and then they watch the movie and then they grade you, they fill out a thing and you get a number grade and it's really, really stressful. And then you take that feedback and you make some changes that you hope are gonna bring your score up. And we did another one and we brought our score up and then you learn more and it's a process that I think is actually really valuable. I'm certainly not one of those filmmakers who's like, ‘I don't care what anybody says’. I care. I want the audience to have fun. This is a movie for the general audience. I'm not making an arty farty sort of a thing. I'm trying to make a big crowd pleasing popcorn movie. I want it to be a roller coaster. So I really wanted to incorporate the feedback.

So what brought the score up? As Zach Cregger shared, one key scene in Barbarian was added to the movie due to early audience feedback. As he continued: 

People were not clear on the relationship between the mother, the kind of crazy woman, and the old man. They did not make the connection that he was her father. And so we added a line of dialogue from the homeless man who says, that's her daddy, he used to bring women down there, and if you make a copy of a copy of a copy. That all of that was a direct result from audience feedback. So that it was, it was clear who she was and how she came to be. And it was effective because the score went up by 10 points.

Hey, test screenings can be valuable. As Cregger shared, people where not fully understanding the backstory of the mother and the man in the basement, so they added a line to clarify this. As an audience member, I will say that scene was an 'Aha!' moment for me regarding the explanation of the Barbarian ending

As a result of Zach Cregger holding test screenings and listening, the movie changed for the better. As he shared, while not all filmmakers would care about holding them and looking to feedback, he absolutely found it an important part of the filmmaking process. Cregger is a first-time horror filmmaker and it helped him out to get some audience participation. 

While Barbarian starts with Georgina Campbell’s Tess and Bill Skarsgard’s Keith finding themselves double-booked in an Airbnb, it’s what lurks in the house’s neighborhood that really ends up supplying the film's terror. Tess, along with the house’s owner AJ, played by Justin Long, later on, become imprisoned by a beastly woman who is one of many victims of years of abuse against women by the prior owner of the house. Having it spelled out that the creature is actually the daughter of the man enriches the concept. 

Following Barbarian, you can follow along on what upcoming horror movies are coming out next and look out for more exclusive interviews here on CinemaBlend. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.