There’s beauty in this Barbarian.
When headstrong Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives at her AirBnB in the shadiest possible neighborhood in Detroit, she finds it double-booked by the gangly Keith (Bill Skarsgard who has quickly become my favorite Skarsgard…sorry, Stellan). This being a movie after-all, the strangers decide to share it for a tense, dreary night.
But the next day, Tess stumbles onto a hidden door in the basement leading to a tunnel system that seemingly stretches under the entire block and holds some dark secrets. The unfortunate couple quickly find themselves set upon by an unsettling “something” that calls the tunnels its home and apparently doesn’t abide trespassers.
Meanwhile, 1,500 miles away, self-centered television actor AJ (Justin Long in full douche-mode) has just been “cancelled” for allegedly raping his co-star and escapes to his rental property to lay low.
The very same property Tess and Keith happen to be staying at.
And as the storylines collide, two people with moral compasses decidedly pointed in opposite directions have to band together in order to survive the night, hunted by one pissed off mother.
Barbarian is a simple story well told that’s not afraid to bring the horror/action to a screeching halt just as it gets going to introduce a whole new thread that at first glance seems detached from the main story, but ultimately helps inform its ending.
That sensibility on full display when it comes to the outlandishness of the creature’s motivations in holding our “heroes” hostage. Yet it’s that same absurdity that lends an air of humanity to the proceedings and is wholly responsible for the decisive shift in sympathies by the time the credits roll.
It’s these bold, brash decisions that elevate the early “been there, done that” goings and brings a certain freshness and flair by pleasantly subverting expectations.
Of course, top-notch performances from Georgina Campbell and Justin Long don’t hurt either. And while I am by no means a horror aficionado, far from it, I haven’t felt this inspired by the genre since Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe (2016), which would make a fine pairing for a Desolate Detroit bundle.
Extras include featurettes and trailer.
Barbarian is a beautifully crafted film in all aspects and worthy of an hour and forty-two minutes of your life. And I look forward to what director/writer Zach Cregger has up his tattered and torn sleeve next.
* * * * *
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules, J.D. Lifshitz
Written and Directed by Zach Cregger
Starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long