By: Amanda Guarragi
What starts out as a bad night for Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) somehow spirals into the depths of hell in this one house. When Tess discovers a rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger named Keith (Bill Skarsgard), against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night. But soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest. Writer/director Zach Cregger created a very original horror piece that will have audiences guessing until the very end. The same way Tess travels deeper into the basement tunnel, the deeper the story gets making the third act interesting. It’s hard to process some things that happen, but once you leave the theatre you will be changed.
What worked was the three-part structure of the narrative. It felt like we were going through the steps with Tess while she ventured further into the basement. The film also highlights the perception of men and how they can appear to be good in nature. There are three male characters present in this story and they all carry themselves differently. Casting Skarsgard as the stranger in the Airbnb worked incredibly well-given audiences prior knowledge of his work making viewers not trust his character. Then when Justin Long steps as AJ Gilbride his story creates a new layer on how perspectives can change. It may feel a bit disjointed at first but the story does come together in the third act and it will all begin to make sense.
It’s hard to discuss this film without spoiling what makes the third act so good. The characters are all pieces to a bigger puzzle in Cregger’s mind. How do men and women see each other? How far do men go before realizing how terrible of a person they are? These questions are placed in this movie as background noise but come into play quite nicely in the context of the unexpected visitor. It’s a fun, wild ride that is very unpredictable. The camerawork feels fresh and the perspective keeps changing while any character is in the tunnel. It’s not overly scary, but the way Cregger builds the tension and makes you anticipate what comes next is very well done. The use of lighting and that haunting score worked perfectly.
Barbarian is a very well-done original horror piece and if you go in with no expectations you will be surprised by how much you enjoy it. If you catch the social messaging in the film, you will understand how layered this story is and why the third act is wrapped up beautifully. It does get gory, it is a bit graphic at times and some scenes are uncomfortable. The men do play their part in this movie and are the ones to give you such an uneasy feeling while watching it. The movie also places similar tropes in the film but Cregger chooses to do the complete opposite so it’s not obvious. It’s an interesting watch and will leave you questioning everything you just saw.