Barbarian is a 2022 American horror-mystery film written and directed by Zach Cregger (in his solo directorial debut). It is produced by Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules, and J.D. Lifshitz. The film stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. The plot sees a woman find out that the rental house she reserved has been accidentally double-booked with a man, while not knowing of a dark secret within the dwelling. (Wikipedia)
S P O I L E R S
Barbarian begins with an intriguing premise – the confusion of two characters being booked into the same accommodation. Without knowing anything of the plot, this story idea keeps the audience on the edge. Tess (Campbell) being the protagonist is obviously wary – as are we – of the other accidental house mate, Keith (Skarsgård).
Barbarian then subverts our expectations as Tess makes certain discoveries about the house that indicate that something very wrong is happening there. She comes across a basement room with a very old bed and a video camera – our imagination runs wild, as does Tess’s. Her first instinct is to run for her life but when Keith returns to the house, he is unconvinced and investigates Tess’s claims. So…. maybe he’s the one responsible for all this? But of course, there’s something else in the house… something horrific.
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Then, in a jarring tonal shift, we are introduced to actor AJ Gilbride (Long) who is undergoing career free-fall, returns to his investment house (yup, that one) with a view to selling it. But it does not take long for AJ to be caught in the same bad scenario as Tess and from that point onwards, it is a struggle for survival. Finally, the antagonist appears, the titular character – an insanely powerful deformed woman – from whom somehow AJ and Tess must escape from.
Now, this is where you either accept Barbarian’s rationale for the monster’s existence or the suspension of disbelief fails you utterly. We are somewhat on the fence on this issue. Writer-Director Cregger sets up the clues for us to follow but whether it all hangs together logically is debatable. The denouement is also hard to swallow for various reasons even if conceptually, it seems satisfying. After all, the horror tropes do require viewers to accept story developments with a grain of salt, no matter how convenient.
Overall, Barbarian is a tense and enjoyable watch, though reliant on twisty gimmicks and far-fetched scenarios. Recommended.
Watch Barbarian on Amazon Prime.
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