The Grossest Scene In Barbarian Was Actually Hilarious To Film

This article contains major spoilers for "Barbarian."

This past September, "Barbarian" became a surprise horror hit. With a production budget of just $4 million and minimal marketing, the film went on to gross an impressive $40.5 million at the domestic box office, mostly through the film's strong word of mouth praise. If you have a horror fan in your life, the best kind of endorsement there is comes in the phrase: "Just go see it without knowing anything about it!"

Just in time for Halloween, "Barbarian" is now streaming on HBO Max, and now that we've all had the opportunity to sit with the film for a while, it's time to finally get into the nitty gritty. "Barbarian" opens on much more conventional concepts. Our protagonist, Tess (Georgina Campbell) is double booked in an Airbnb with Keith (Bill Skarsgård). With all the other accommodation in Detroit booked up due to a convention, she decides to stay for the night. As the first act comes to a close, an ominous dark tunnel in the basement is found, and Tess and Keith are attacked by something in the catacombs of the house.

It's then that our perspective is abruptly switched to AJ Gildebride, a Hollywood a-hole (Justin Long) and the legal owner of the house. When he descends into the hidden tunnels (for real estate purposes, hilariously) he comes face to face with our new horror icon, the Mother (Matthew Patrick Davis).

This encounter leads to one of the gnarliest gross-out moments in the film, in which the Mother insistently feeds breast milk to her hostages-turned-children. It might have been hard to watch for some, but for co-stars Georgina Campbell and Justin Long, it was a hilarious moment on set.

'Make it gross!'

Diverging away from current horror trends, one of the greatest strengths of "Barbarian" is its strong sense of dark humor. Since director Zach Cregger has an extensive sketch comedy background, it's great to see him draw from that experience in his feature directorial debut. Humor not only breaks up the tension throughout the film, it also drives the story in a meta and clever way: capitalizing on Bill Skarsgård's ominous qualities only for him to be completely innocent, and, in the context of the breastfeeding scene, adding a layer of intrigue and depth to our big movie "monster."

When asked about the experience of filming the breastfeeding scene for Digital Spy, Campbell recalled that the experience was over-the-top from the beginning.

"Mostly it was hard not to laugh because as soon as that bottle came down, we were all like, 'Oh my God, this is ridiculous.' The hair was a development. There's a lot of hair on [The Mother], so I think we'd done a couple of takes and then we were doing a take where Zach was yelling at me things to do, so he was like, 'Make the milk splutter out your mouth a bit, make it gross!' Suddenly there was a hair there and then he was like, 'More hair! Add more hair,' so someone's coming in, shoving hair onto it. It was disgusting. Yeah, what we have to do for art."

Campbell's portrayal of Tess stayed resourceful and confident despite her circumstances, and her ability to radiate competence while doing something so inherently silly is a testament to her skill.

Maternal instincts

In another interview for Vulture, horror/comedy veteran Justin Long explained that the line between "scary" and "funny" was blurred filming the equally gross scene that follows. After AJ refuses to drink the Mother's breast milk from the hairy bottle, she drags him out of his dungeon cell and takes him to her room to feed him directly from the source. "It was actually surprisingly funny," Long explained. "Because there's a very thin line between something creepy, unsettling, and potentially cinematic and something that is over-the-top farce — comical for the wrong reasons."

Long credited a large part of what made the scene a hilarious moment to film was the calming presence of his screen partner, Matthew Patrick Davis, playing the Mother under a heavy amount of prosthetics.

"He's in the full costume — the latex, the pieces — and he looks gruesome, right? I'm trying to stay in this headspace, and he's the sweetest person. So he was checking in on me between takes, because he saw that I was agitated. From behind this grotesque face, he would say, "Are you okay?" Like, really gently. "You okay, dude? Do you need anything?" It was odd, so I couldn't help but laugh. It's ludicrous. Then you realize what we're doing, and it's, like, he's about to shove his prosthetic nipple into my mouth. It all becomes immediately hilarious. It's such a fine line. I thought it was funny, too, that, without realizing it, he was being so naturally maternal."

Despite the grotesque horror of the moment, Davis was making the right call. There's responsibility in making sure your scene partners are comfortable during awkward and weirdly intimate scenes. Moreover, Davis's nurturing instincts are perfectly aligned with the nuances of the Mother character — deep down, she just wants someone to love.

A horror movie set doesn't need to be scary

Long has been dubbed a scream queen in his own right for his eclectic horror efforts, from "Tusk" to "Drag Me to Hell," so it's only natural that he'd be asked if he ever felt any fear filming horror features. Long answered, "No. It's weird. I get that question with horror, and it's rarely the case where the location is so scary that it's enough to put you in that state. Everything was safe."

With a large number of credits under his name at this point, it's only natural that Long feels a great sense of security with an experienced crew. Channeling horror in his characters means finding his own zen, rather than drawing fear from his surroundings. "I think the challenge for me is blocking everything out. Once I get my body into it, I can kind of trick myself," Long explained to Vulture, "But no, with the actual shooting, I've never been afraid."

As much as there's mystique to actual, authentic scares being caught on camera, it's refreshing to hear a horror film production story that was very much a positive experience on all fronts. "Barbarian" is full of unexpected twists and turns, so Cregger knows exactly how to manipulate a crowd. Luckily, he kept that energy towards his audience and solidified his first feature film as one of the greatest sleeper hits of the year. We can't wait to see what he has up his sleeve next.

"Barbarian" is now streaming on HBO Max.