Some stay for the night. Some stay for the week. Some never leave.
Barbarian is a 2022 horror film directed by Zach Cregger, written by Zach Cregger, produced by Regency Enterprises, Almost Never Films, Hammerstone Studios, Vertigo Entertainment, and Boulderlight Pictures, and distributed by 20th Century Studios and New Regency. It stars Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me." - Tess Marshall
Tess Marshall arrives at an Airbnb in Detroit for a job interview. However, she's forced into an uncomfortable situation when she finds out that another man has also booked the Airbnb. As she tries to get comfortable, she makes a horrifying discovery that makes her realize a double-booked Airbnb is nowhere near the worst thing she's going to experience.
Direction / Executing Beats Correctly / Comedy-Horror Blend / Detroit Setting / Unpredictable / Villain(s) and Going Too Far / Mid-Story Shift / Police / Ending
Barbarian is one of the craziest horror movies I've ever seen.
Zach Cregger, the director of this film, hasn't really done anything that notable, but this film should put his name in people's heads. Cregger knows how to move the camera in the right way so that you are incredibly uncomfortable. You never know what's waiting for you in the dark. His ability to make empty, dark spaces terrifying is one of the coolest things about this movie. And, whenever a tense moment pays off with the eventual scare, the scare is just as good as the build-up. He just really does an amazing job of directing this thing. I hope he's able to gain more recognition from this film, because he deserves it.
And I kind of touched on this while raving about Cregger, but this film executes its scares really well. Not that this movie kept me up at night, but it was definitely one of the scarier films I have seen in recent memory. There are images in this movie that will stick in your brain. The slow-building dread and payoff is just so well done. It's rare that horror movies are really able to get all the small moments right, but Barbarian does.
I gave this praise to Nope as well, but this movie does a fantastic job of throwing in comedy in the middle of a really tense scene to add to the tension. Sometimes, comedic moments take away from tension, but other times, comedy can crank up the tension of a scene even more. Barbarian is really funny at times...but the comedy also comes from terrifying situations. I'd say this movie does a better job of blending comedy and horror than Nope. It was one of my favorite aspects of the movie.
This is a personal thing, but I live about twenty-five minutes from Detroit. So I love it whenever movies are set in Michigan. They use the Detroit setting really well. It makes for some really funny moments if you live in Michigan. I know that this positive won't apply for everyone, because not everyone lives in Michigan, but if you do, you'll appreciate this movie a little bit more.
Barbarian is also incredibly, incredibly unpredictable. This film feels like a combination of Psycho and Parasite. While it's nowhere near as good as either of those movies, it has the unpredictability factor that comes along with both of them. There's a lot of things that happen in this movie that will remind you of Psycho or Parasite, and I mean that entirely in a positive light. This movie hits you with twist after twist, turn after turn, and it was a really fun experience with a packed theater that was reacting to these crazy reveals.
Barbarian reminds me of X in a little bit.
If you've seen X, you know that that movie goes places that are not pleasant. Barbarian doesn't quite go to the lengths of X, but it definitely crosses the line when it comes to discomfort. These smaller horror movies often exist for filmmakers to express their visions, meaning that they get to include things that might not be included in bigger films. The villain of this movie has a whole disturbing backstory that goes a little too far. It made me too uncomfortable. There are also things in this movie that have a lot of screentime, but are extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable to look at. This movie is definitely made to evoke feelings of discomfort, but sometimes, I was too uncomfortable.
There's also a point about midway through the movie where the story changes. When you watch it, you'll know exactly the scene I'm talking about. It's a jarring shift in tone. I understand why they do it, but it kills all the tension and the forward momentum of the film. It never quite regains its footing, which was disappointing.
This movie also has the most egregious example of the worst horror movie cliche: the really dumb cops. There's a scene involving the police that was one of the worst written scenes I've seen this year. The cops are just so clueless and so not helpful. It feels like Cregger needed to eliminate the cops as a possibility for help, so he did it in the laziest way possible.
The worst part of Barbarian, though, is how it wraps up. The climax feels rushed and sudden. The characters make decisions that are just incredibly stupid. There's some good payoff, but I was really disappointed by this ending. They didn't do the characters justice. They didn't do the movie justice. It's not one of those endings that ruins the entire movie. It's just a really mediocre ending that feels underwhelming compared to the rest of the film.
Final Thoughts and Score
Barbarian is a really cool horror flick that will shock you with the way it unravels. While it loses some steam about halfway through, I'd recommend this movie if you can handle some really uncomfortable elements.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 17+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8/10
Directed by Zach Cregger
Rated R for strong bloody violence, nudity, sexual content, language, frightening themes and images, thematic elements
Released on September 9, 2022
1 hour and 42 minutes
Georgina Campbell as Tess Marshall
Bill Skarsgård as Keith Toshko
Justin Long as AJ Gilbride
Matthew Patrick Davis as The Mother
Richard Brake as Frank