Crazy, shocking and well acted, Barbarian is an entertaining and intriguing original idea that fumbles during its third act but impresses nonetheless.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / NOVEMBER 2, 2022
Directed by Zach Cregger and starring Bill Skarsgard (It) and Georgina Campbell (Black Mirror), Barbarian is one of the most talked about and anticipated horror movies of 2022. When Tess checks into her Air BnB to find a guest is already staying there, against her better judgment, she decides to stay the night regardless. What awaits Tess is something horrifying, leading her to discover that there's a lot more to fear than an unexpected room-mate.
Barbarian has mostly been long awaited by horror fans due to it's cast. The prospect of Bill Skarsgard, who is quickly becoming a household name in the horror genre, starring alongside fan favourite scream king Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers, Tusk) was an exciting one. Luckily, the excitement was justified. The pair give excellent performances and prove why they're perfect for this style of flick. Skarsgard's character is an interesting one as the audience are lead to constantly toy over his trustworthiness, and Long is playing an individual who is far from likeable. However, the performances are so fantastic that you can't help but root for them both regardless. In the lead role is Georgina Campbell, who shines in her career best performance. Not only does she add heart and depth to the movie, but she's also pretty badass when the time comes. The three work well both separately and together, giving the top notch performances that we were all excited for.
Those who watch horror movies are pretty used to third acts being the place to find most of the payoff, whether that be horror, action or a combination of both. Luckily, the entirety of the run-time is exciting. The build up may seem slow, but the tension building is masterful, the eerie nature beaming off the screen from the minute the movie begins. It's unsettling and creepy enough to find a stranger in your home, let alone what may come next, and Barbarian knows that. Just when you think things can't get more horrifying and disturbing, the script throws in another curveball. The pacing is pretty perfect, providing much to grimace at the whole way through. The script also feels quite modern in it's approach, blending together red flags, Air BnB, cancel culture and modern day etiquette in a way that feels naturalistic and real.
Unfortunately, this script is both a blessing and a curse. Although the campy, crazy and occasionally funny third act is an absolute blast, it feels a little all over the place. It's not often that the first act of a horror film is the most intriguing, but it could be argued that the tension building here is executed better than the climax. The final 30 minutes are undeniably fun and worth the wait, but it attempts too much and feels wobbly. The intriguing and unique premise unfortunately ends up going down a pretty familiar route, and though you haven't been on this exact journey before, you may have already visited the destination. There's a big shift that happens mid way through that, although let's the awesome Justin Long take the limelight, feels a little jarring and unwelcome.
Barbarian is a horror film, meaning it's success boils down to one burning question; is it scary? Luckily, the film is packed with scares. As mentioned above, it utilises both tension building and straight up scares to provide something that's unsettling at every moment. The horror imagery is utterly disturbing, particularly during the final act, and the dingy, eerie setting is one that won't leave your mind for months to come. When it comes to horror, Barbarian is as effective as it can get, and has a bit of everything. It has a “final girl” worth rooting for, a chilling villain, an element of mystery that teeters on psychological thriller territory and a slew of twists, turns and crazy reveals.
Although it bites off a little too much more than it can chew and feels slightly too familiar by the end, Barbarian is worth all the praise and press that it's been receiving. With stellar performances, a unique premise, a boatload of scares and horror visuals that'll be engraved into your brain for life, it's one of the best horror flicks to release this year.