REVIEW: ‘Barbarian’ successfully brings horror to the Airbnb scene

Ah, Detroit. Home of the Red Wings, thick square pizza and, according to this movie, cavernous, dungeon-like basements.

Tess (Georgina Campbell) is in Detroit for a job interview and, rather than rent a hotel room, she decided to stay at an Airbnb. She successfully arrives at the location, but, to her surprise, it’s already occupied by another individual, Keith (Bill Skarsgard).

As it turns out, both Tess and Keith managed to rent the same property through different websites. With a storm raging outside and few vacancies around, Keith suggests Tess stay at the house and they work things out the next day. Tess agrees, but right from the start, she notices strange things about the home.

There are films with a bit of mystery, and then there are those that will really keep you guessing. “Barbarian” definitely falls in the latter. It’s a picture that takes wild, unexpected turns that keep an audience exhilarated as they guess what’s happening.

The film is plotted exceptionally well, with the first-half filled with a satisfying, suspenseful build-up, as the viewer learns more about the characters and the house they’re staying at. This leads to a great climax to finish the first half before the movie smoothly shifts gears and introduces a whole new aspect that adds to the intrigue of what’s going on.

From there, the film gets all the more thrilling and twisted, as the picture of what’s really going on becomes more and more clear. Director and writer Zach Cregger deserves plenty of credit for having the film’s plot develop in such fine fashion, even as its story shifts directions.

It’s a really entertaining and creepy joyride, with plenty of freaky visuals and scary moments in settings of dark, underground areas and a neighborhood of urban decay. There’s a lot to like throughout “Barbarian,” from some of the brutal moments to well-placed pieces of humor.

Courtesy 20th Century Studios and Regency Enterprises.

However, in all honesty, “Barbarian” does overstay its welcome just a bit. There comes a few points in the film’s final act that it seems like it’s being dragged out.

It’s not to the point where it will make you check your watch, yet there’s just a nudging feeling that it could be ever so slightly trimmed. The movie’s big secret is also just a tad disappointing all things considered.

What eventually comes to light is certainly disturbing, but didn’t fully work on my end. What did work was the cast in the movie.

Georgina Campbell is great in the lead role, fully selling how the character is driven more and more to the edge as the situation devolves. While he has far less screentime, though, Skarsgard deserves a good deal of praise because of how he keeps an audience guessing on whether or not to trust the character through is portrayal.

One just wishes the characters acted with a bit more sense at times. There’s always going to be the cliché in horror when characters make questionable choices. But, there’s a difference between questionable and downright dimwitted. The characters are far from dumb, but some of what they do can take a person out of the film.

The characters are still likable, though, and the cast is definitely up to the task of making them interesting, including Justin Long who shows up midway through and does great work. Thanks to that, the fact that it has a good creepy aesthetic and a mysterious story helps make “Barbarian” a 3.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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