Barbarian Review

Last Updated on December 26, 2022

PLOT: A woman ends up with an Airbnb mix-up and stays the night in a shady Detroit house with a dark and deadly secret.

REVIEW: Reviewing Barbarian is a skill in itself. I was lucky enough to see the premiere screening at Comic-Con, and what was evident by the time the credits rolled was that the journey and all of its surprises can only work if you know nothing about it. So, before I jump into what will be a tricky balancing act, believe me when I say you want to go into Barbarian as blind as possible. The movie’s strength is its unpredictability. You have been warned, so expect minor spoilers ahead.

Barbarian is a horror flick that aims for suspense and schlock while trying to walk the tightrope of a modern thriller and a ’90s-era B-movie rental. Writer and director Zach Cregger uses his comedy roots to craft a unique experience that mixes genres and never plays the safe bet. Set in the slums of Detriot, Tess (Georgina Campbell) is in town for a business meeting only to find out her Airbnb has been double booked. Keith (Bill Skarsgard) plays the other occupant, and though he seems innocent, something just isn’t right, while the house has a secret that puts Tess in grave danger.

Cregger crafts a story in a way I can only describe as everything but the kitchen sink, with a trajectory that is as unpredictable as it is strange. Jumping between some of the best tension I’ve seen in years and a tone of goofy lunacy, Barbarian is a fascinating watch that sticks with you. Georgina Campbell holds it down as the lead and does a great job of coming off wise enough to recognize trouble when she sees it but empathetic enough to put herself in danger for the greater good. The dueling tones are something to be fully aware of before heading into this because how well it works for you will determine your level of enjoyment.

Think Malignant meets People Under The Stairs; Barbarian seems to be in on its own joke. Presenting some situations as razor straight, while others have a Larry Cohen level of fun, giving this a solid B-movie aesthetic. Now, this doesn’t always work, but the effort alone and the big swings it takes are admirable. I’ve struggled with what lands in terms of execution and what is only remarkable from an artistic standpoint. The tension and intense first half are excellent, yet after the Comic-Con screening, I was conflicted by the inherent goofiness of the later half. The more I pondered, the more it became apparent that the latter humor was intentional and that Barbarian purposefully leans into its low-rent influences.

With that, some character motivations and actions are moronic at best and insulting at worst. There were a few scenes that had the audience yelling at the screen. Certain characters have to get into specific situations for the narrative to work and, by doing so, make some of the most frustrating choices I’ve seen in years. Because the first half is remarkably tense, you feel a bit let down by the weirdness that follows. Yet, in the end, the wild ride it took me on outweighed the ridiculousness. Barbarian ended up being a fun and unique experience despite my hesitation on what exactly it was going for and how it got there. 

This will indeed divide the internet, and just like Malignant, you must take a step back and view this from afar. The performances are on point, with Justin Long stealing the scenes he’s in and Bill Skarsgard playing charming and suspicious so well that you can’t help but love him. Besides some ludicrous character decisions, this hits all the right notes, giving us a horror experience, unlike anything I’ve seen in years. People always ask for original horror, and I’d say this is the answer. Whether it works for you or not, Barbarian is a unique story that marches to the beat of its own drum, and that alone should be celebrated. It’s a strange beast that stands tall in a world full of remakes, sequels, and adaptations. If you can get into the movie’s silly and hauntingly mixed tone, Barbarian is a fun ride worth taking.

Barbarian releases in theaters on September 9, 2022




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About the Author

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Lance Vlcek was raised in the aisles of Family Video in the south suburbs of Chicago. He's a fan of fun schlock like Friday The 13th Part 7 and Full Moon Entertainment but also loves genre classics like Evil Dead and Big Trouble In Little China. Lance does many things outside of genre consumption, with his favorites being his homemade Chicago pizza recipe, homemade rum, and video editing. He has four Sugar Gliders, a love for beach bars, and claims Brett Morgen's favorite Bowie album must be Changesonebowie based on his soulless documentary!