I’m starting to develop a soft spot for eccentric horror films, something filled with unexpected twists, wacky curveballs, and tonal shifts galore. It might leave you a bit bewildered, but it’s a good time nonetheless. Barbarian is just that. And it’s largely thanks to a marketing campaign that gave us nothing more than a microscopic dose of what it truly contains.
On a rainy night, Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives at her Airbnb in a rundown area of Detroit, finding that it’s been double booked by a man named Keith (Bill Skarsgård). He invites her inside to figure out her options, but with a job interview in the morning, she decides it’s best to stay the night.
Keith is nothing but charming and a total gentleman. He gets her bags from her car in the pouring rain, makes her a cup of warm tea, and even insists on taking the couch so she can have the bed. But his polite qualities don’t fully bring Tess to let her guard down. She takes notice of his belongings, locks doors, and even snaps a photo of his license.
While getting to know each other, the two discover they have a lot in common, in a way that seems too perfect. But things aren’t as they seem, as darkness lies within the house. There’s not much that can be said without getting into major spoilers, but be prepared for one interesting ride.
Written and directed by Zach Cregger, Barbarian presents a first act that feels predictable and somewhat unassuming. Two strangers have an almost perfect meet-cute, and despite hesitations, one’s guard is inevitably let down. And you expect the other is bound to take advantage of that weakness.
I won’t tell you whether or not that’s what this film will deliver, but it certainly takes you on a journey that you can’t possibly predict. Barbarian has tons of fun peeling back its layers to surprise you with ridiculous and horrifying revelations.
It reminded me of 2021’s Malignant in a way where the outlandish is where it succeeds, even filled with a few moments of impressive practical effects. The deviation from the expected makes it super original and a theatrical experience that brings macabre joy to horror fans.