“Barbarian” is directed by Zach Cregger, who you may know from playing Owen on the TBS comedy series “Wrecked.” This film stars Georgina Campbell (Murdered by My Boyfriend, Krypton), Bill Skarsgård (It, Deadpool 2), and Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Live Free or Die Hard). This film follows a woman who books a stay at an Airbnb only to find another person already staying in the property. Despite the unexpected encounter, the two end up staying together only to discover the house is haunted.
I went into “Barbarian” doing something that I do not typically do when it comes to movies I see. Specifically, unless there was one playing at a screening and I do not remember, I went into “Barbarian” having seen no trailers. My earliest memory of this film was hearing about it from someone I follow on Twitter who saw the movie and had a good time. I checked out “Barbarian” for a couple reasons. First off, and least importantly, apparently there is going to be no physical media release, so I wanted to watch the film in a theater before it goes to streaming, and I inevitably forget about it. Streaming is temporary, physical media is forever. Second, I have heard nothing but good things about “Barbarian.” People I know who have seen it, liked it. The critics are eating it up too. “Barbarian” has a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I saw the movie, and the first thing I must say is that this is the best horror movie of 2022 so far. I am happy to say that because not only is this a great movie, but this shows how spectacular of a year the horror genre is having. I am happy for a lot of people working in horror right now. I hope everyone is proud of themselves. I just saw “Smile,” which was fantastic and I literally claimed a week or two ago to be my favorite horror film of the year. “The Black Phone” is really good and had plenty of creepy moments. Even though it is not pure horror, “Nope” was also quite entertaining. I also really liked “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” This movie surpasses all of them.
Before I continue my thoughts, I must state that this review is going to be vague. This is a movie that not only do I recommend, it is one that would recommend with providing as little detail as possible as to why it works so well. The trailer for this film, which I did see while doing this review, perfectly details my sentiments. Whoever worked on that trailer is a legend.
The best part of “Barbarian” is its simplicity. You start off by seeing two characters who immediately develop an inciting incident over who can stay at a house they are renting. This simple bump in the road causes them to get to know each other and deliver some of my favorite chemistry between a duo I have seen this year. In the first ten minutes, I found myself buying into every single one of these two’s interactions. Campbell shines as Tess and Skarsgård is perfectly cast as Keith. The two are great together. I also like how this movie is told from Tess’s perspective instead of Keith because in addition to all the traditional horror elements, there is also another sense of danger I did not initially think about, specifically stranger danger.
Now, if I, a straight white male, showed up at the door of the rental house and I saw Keith staying inside, I would be confused. But if I had nowhere to go, it was raining, I were low on money, and a bunch of hotels were booked, I might walk it off if we agree to spend the night together. Perhaps if neither of us were forced to sleep on the floor. Meanwhile, there is a scene that stood out to me where Tess secretly takes a picture of Keith’s driver’s license. Little things like that reveal the creeps Tess is experiencing.
Some of this movie’s more tense moments are more or less linked to basic, everyday thoughts that runs through one’s mind if they are somewhere unfamiliar or far from home. I tried to get inside Tess’s head for a second. What is she thinking? She must have been asking questions such as… What if this guy drugs me? What if this guy is not what he says he is? How safe is this part of town? The key word here is tense, not scary. The scary shenanigans do not come until maybe a half hour into the movie. If you are looking for scares, they are there, and they are terrifying. You will get them eventually, and the wait is worth it.
This movie is 102 minutes long. As far as I am concerned, that is a perfect runtime. Pacing-wise, this movie could not be better. Despite the kind of short runtime, the pacing is not balls to the wall. It is not quite a slow burn either, at least to me, but everything that happens during the runtime feels either minimalistic or quiet. Even a simple conversation kept my attention, partially because of the conflict in every scene, even if it did not involve something horrifying.
Even when a movie of this sort is not good. I always enjoy a project that challenges its audience. “Barbarian” takes a big swing and it is undeniably a grand slam. I do think the climax is less entertaining than the first two acts. Not that I did not enjoy it, but if I had to name which part of the film I thought was the weakest, that would have to be the one. That said, everything that builds up to the climax from the relationship between Tess and Keith, to the scary shenanigans, to even simple interactions that could backfire, make the ride worth it.
I always make an effort when I show a movie to a family member or a friend to let them go in the way I often did. I want that individual to experience the movie firsthand as blind as a bat. Thankfully, this movie has a great trailer that I would not mind showing to someone who has not watched the movie. But this movie is a perfect encapsulation as to why I keep my mouth shut on all the details as to why I like certain movies when showing them to other people. Maybe if I show my friends “Barbarian” one day, they will disagree with me as to why I like this movie so much. But it does not change the fact in this solid year of horror, “Barbarian” is the genre’s biggest swing and mightiest payoff yet.
In the end, “Barbarian” is a fantastic movie that I would watch again some year on Halloween if given the chance. It is crazy, mind-boggling, yet simple. It is a movie that even though it belongs in the horror genre, can also qualify as a simple human drama. The cast is great, the script is phenomenal, and Zach Cregger’s direction is perfect. The movie’s final moments, while fun, are not as hypnotizing as its initial moments. Even so, this movie is, as I said, the best horror movie of 2022. I am going to give “Barbarian” an 8/10.
This movie is not coming to physical media and instead, only getting a Digital HD release for home viewing, which I think is a shame. This is a movie, if I bought it on Blu-ray, would probably go in my player every other October. Although if you have the chance to check out “Barbarian,” just do it.
“Barbarian” is now playing in theaters and will be available on Digital HD tomorrow, October 25th. The film will also soon be available to stream on HBO Max and Hulu.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new romcom “Ticket to Paradise.” The film just hit theaters this weekend, I had the chance to see it with my family, and I will have my thoughts very soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Barbarian?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror movie of the year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!