It’s long and silly, but Barbarian is wildly entertaining.
2022 seems like the year for movies about double-booked home/vacation rentals. The month began with two strangers having to share a vacation villa in Verona, Italy–one of the most romantic cities in the world. Netflix’s romantic comedy, Love in the Villa, saw an unlikely pair evolve from enemies to lovers in its silly, albeit comforting story about hopeless romanticism. Then there’s Barbarian. Quite the opposite in scope, Zach Cregger’s intimate horror feature finds a young woman’s stay at a home rental interrupted not only by a stranger, but something dark too. It’s long and silly, but Barbarian is wildly entertaining.
The film follows Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell), a young and enthusiastic film lover who travels to Detroit for the chance to interview one of her favorite directors. Upon arriving at her rental home at night and for the time being, Tess finds that the house is not only double booked, but she’ll have to share it with the handsome, albeit strange Keith (Bill Skarsgård). Everything in Tess tells her to leave, but with no other last-minute options and against her better judgement, she decides to stay the evening. Sharing the home with Keith isn’t the only thing odd about her stay. Tess soon discovers that something more sinister is awaiting her in the basement.
“Barbarian is wildly entertaining.”
Zach Cregger’s script for his horror feature is one of the pleasant surprises of the 2022 film year. It starts out as one of those probable nightmares in which viewers could easily imagine themselves. For women, that means being torn between a lack of safety outside in a dangerous city or pressing your luck staying in a rental with a complete male stranger. Through his script, Cregger appropriately captures these realistic concerns through his lead character, Tess—making it all the more enjoyable (and relatable) to see a realistic version of a probable scenario.
Another great thing about how Cregger writes his lead actress all comes down to the decisions she makes within the film. Often times in horror features, characters—especially women—make questionable choices that often lead them towards more trouble than they started with. But in Barbarian, Cregger recognizes that that misguided trope is tired and overused. He instead provides Tess with plenty of opportunities to show natural problem-solving skills and the ability to think under pressure during stressful moments. This isn’t new, as just earlier this year writer-director Jordan Peele treated his audience to the same kind of smart writing in Nope. Yet, it’s an added benefit that viewers have come to appreciate in this new age of horror.
“One of the pleasant surprises of the 2022 film year”
The positives for Barbarian don’t end there. On screen, Campbell and Skarsgård have magnificent chemistry as the duo forced to adapt to their new circumstances. When the action, or horror in this case, kicks into high gear, they play off each other tremendously, with natural dialogue and reactions thereof. Their performances will enable viewers to truly feel for them in the unfortunate predicament that they’ve found themselves. Justin Long is also a standout, but I won’t dare spoil anything surrounding his character. The score is also great. It’s campy and cool, with the right blend of old-school eclectic vibe and classic suspenseful and down-right haunting mayhem.
There’s a point in Barbarian in which the story begins to drag and taps into silly territory. Truthfully, the strength of the film lies in its mysterious basement when the answers are still unexplored. Oddly enough, these small hiccups don’t ruin the watching experience. However, the film may not be for everyone, especially with how the story unravels. But one thing is certain about Barbarian. It’s unpredictable and scary at all the right moments and for all the right reasons. And ultimately, this is the kind of horror film to see in theaters with a group of friends. No matter how you feel about the film as a whole, it’ll surely have you taking extra precaution when renting a home.
Watch the trailer below for Barbarian, in theaters Friday, September 9, 2022: