BARBARIAN review by Mark Walters – Georgina Campbell & Bill Skarsgard make uncomfortable roomies

BARBARIAN review by Mark Walters – Georgina Campbell & Bill Skarsgard make uncomfortable roomies

These days, horror movies all seem somewhat derivative of what came before, most of them feeling a bit too familiar to be considered memorable. BARBARIAN finds a way to be a bit more relevant from the start, as it tells the story of a woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) who arrives one rainy night in Detroit at an Air BnB-sort of house booking, only to find the keys aren’t in the lock box and the door to the house is locked. She calls the booking site only to get no answer, and the rest of the neighborhood is very dark and brooding. Noticing a light come on inside the house, Tess knocks on the door, which is answered by Keith (Bill Skarsgard), a man who claims he also booked this house to stay in, and doesn’t understand why Tess is now there. He invites her in out of the rain, and ultimately to stay, as she’s left with little options otherwise. Reluctantly, Tess accepts the invite, and Keith gives her the bedroom to sleep in. As she settles in for bed, things start to get creepy, and Tess begins to wonder if this house is really a safe haven for her.

That’s about all I can say without getting into some pretty big spoiler territory. The trailers for the film do show that part of the plot involves finding hidden rooms and passageways inside the home, but to expand upon what that means and why it’s there would give away a bit too much. This is a movie comprised of three segments, each in a different point in time, but all of which connect in the final act. Georgina and Bill are the main focus of the first segment, the second focuses on a disgraced television star AJ, played by Justin Long, who takes the story into a somewhat more comedic tone, which gives the audience a bit of relief considering how dark and serious the first segment is. The third segment is actually a flashback that sort of explains the origins of the house, and what led to where it is in the present. While the screenplay is non-linear in a way, it all feels necessary to get us to the final moments.

What can I talk about? I suppose the performances are worthy of note, as both Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgard are interesting characters and have good chemistry, even during some of their understandably uncomfortable moments. It’s nice to see a somewhat different side of Skarsgard, who most will identify with playing Pennywise in the IT movies. Here he’s more of a seemingly normal guy, placed in an awkward situation, but someone who appears to have noble and respectful motives. Georgina Campbell is a fascinating and believable lead here, reacting in very genuine ways and coming across as very sincere. Justin Long will probably be considered the most memorable of the cast, since his character is easily the most layered, and his witty and sometimes sarcastic performance is really effective… again, like a breath of fresh air when things get a bit too disturbing. The trailers for the movie are intentionally somewhat misleading, and the film makes it a point to misdirect the audience on more than one occasion, which keeps things interesting. The final act does feel a bit messy at times, which might hurt the overall effect of the film, but there’s enough smart moments to make this production stand out among other horror movies that are similar.

Wirter/director Zach Cregger (THE WHITEST KIDS YOU KNOW) has crafted a smart and scary film that contains some subtle social commentary that at times spans decades, and feels filled with opportunity. I was impressed with the movie, but I didn’t love it, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone outside of hardcore horror fans, but I do believe there’s an audience out there for it. This feels like a film festival darling that would play on the midnight track, not a movie for the squeamish or timid, as there’s some imagery in here that will haunt you for a while. BARBARIAN is easily one of the most interesting horror films I’ve seen in recent years, and it’s always refreshing to see filmmakers trying something new. I’ll put it this way, a few years ago I stayed with some fellow film critics at an Air BnB during a film festival in Austin, and there was a locked section of the house we couldn’t get into, but were very curious about… after seeing this movie, I’m now perfectly fine knowing we never opened that door.

Feel free to watch my video review for BARBARIAN below, and let us know what you thought in the comments.

In “Barbarian,” a young woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked, and a strange man is already staying there.Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.

BARBARIAN opens September 9th, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.