Barbarian – movie review

Barbarian is a genuinely creepy horror movie with bite. It opens with the power of suggestion, but morphs into something far more sinister.

Tess (Georgina Campbell) has driven herself to a very shady part of Detroit, where she intends to stay for the night ahead of a job interview. But with rain falling, when she gets to her Airbnb, she finds there is someone already in the house she is meant to be in by herself. Musician Keith (Bill Skarsgard) booked the same home through another platform. With a lack of available alternatives, Tess reluctantly agrees to stay. She gets the bedroom and he the couch. He’s a perfect gentleman. In fact, they have more in common that she expected.

But the next day, after Tess returns from her interview, things fall apart. She discovers the house, which is the only one intact in the neighbourhood, surrounded by derelict others, has a basement where evil lurks. A second story thread emerges concerning the owner of the property, AJ (Justin Long), an actor whose career has just hit a major roadblock.

Writer and director Zach Cregger has done a great job with the material. He creates a sense of unease early on and keeps turning the screws. He draws us in and then drops us from a great height. At least, that’s what it felt like. The sound effects and music by Anna Drubich are terrific and help build the tension.

Campbell, Skarsgard and Long play along nicely. Campbell, in particular, inhabits Tess’ nervy role well, while Skargard’s character is more chilled. Long enters the fray later as AJ, with quite the back story. I defy anyone to pick where this is going in the first half hour or so. I couldn’t and I love that about the film.

Barbarian has truly frightening moments. It shocks and surprises as it moves into quite bizarre territory.

Alex First

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