Review: Barbarian

Horror films centered on travel have always been in style. What’s more terrifying than having a literal nightmare travel experience? The introduction of ride shares and Airbnb has given horror filmmakers a deeper catalog of frightening travel scenarios to choose from.

From the mind of director/writer Zach Cregger, Barbarian tells the story of Tess (Georgina Campbell) – a young woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview. When Tess arrives at her Airbnb it’s already occupied by a young man named Keith (Bill Skarsgard). With no other hotel options, Tess decides to stay at the home with Keith.

After her interview, Tess returns to the rental and is searching for toilet paper. Her search leads her to the basement where she finds a hidden door and a room that leaves her unsettled. When Keith returns home, she realizes the Airbnb isn’t quite what it seems.

Barbarian is a fantastic horror film with a lot of layers. There’s a really interesting premise (woman alone in a scary Airbnb) that’s in the trailer and poster. There’s also a flashback and other stories that aren’t in any of the film’s promotion – as the story uncovers what’s happening there are plenty of “Nope!” and “Oh hell no!” moments. The layered approach to the story is what makes Barbarian incredibly entertaining.

The film is structure also makes it hard to discuss the plot in full without spoiling it. What can be said….there are some jaw dropping scenes, really good jump scares, some very grotesque and gory moments, and the violence is visceral. It has every element you’d want in a good horror film.

Director Zach Cregger uses every bit of the 102 runtime to scare the audience, relieve tension with comedy, and set up more terrifying scenarios for Tess. Cregger does a fantastic job of building tension with just a flashlight and a tunnel or a door closing – it’s masterfully done.

Georgina Campbell gives a wonderful performance as Tess. Her character is just dumb enough to do things that keep her in peril and smart enough to figure her way out. Campbell gives Tess a healthy level of naivety that makes some of her decisions, even the not so smart ones, very believable.

There’s also another actor that comes in during the second act and he takes the film to another level with his performance.

Barbarian is one of the best horror films of the year. It’s a minimalist premise that provides maximum scares. There are no wasted moments in this film and it’s enjoyable from beginning to end. Barbarian is worth discussing but not a story you want spoiled. Do you best to go in knowing nothing but what’s in the trailer.

Grade: B+