Horror film “Barbarian” brings terror to theaters


Tribune News Service

“Barbarian” was released Sept. 9, 2022. It is expected to be on Hulu and HBO Max on Oct. 4, 2022.

BEN NEESEN, Guest Columnist

When was the last time you went into a movie theater completely blind about what you’re about to see? Seriously, think about it. Nowadays by the time you’re in your seat, most movies have already shown you enough scenes in the promotion and trailers that there isn’t much mystery left for the viewer. “Barbarian” brings gripping suspense and shocking surprise back to theaters this horror movie season. 

The story follows Tess, who arrives from out of town on a late rainy night to a dilapidated Detroit neighborhood, searching for her Airbnb so she can get some rest before her job interview the next day. Only the key isn’t in the lockbox, and a sleepy stranger answers the door just as confused as she is. Realizing that they have been double booked, the stranger invites her inside to sort out the situation. This only covers the first fifteen minutes, as the relatable setup straps you in for a plot twisting thrill ride. 

There are many things that “Barbarian” does well. The anchor for the film’s dramatic success is the writing. Our protagonists have realistic and nuanced conversations, all while making smart choices and avoiding the ignorantly grave decisions that characters often make in horror movies. The unconventional plot developments throughout the film are kept grounded with realistic and surprisingly humorous dialogue. Writer/Director Zach Cregger is known most notably for his sketch comedy group WKUK, as his comedy roots are very prevalent throughout “Barbarian” with expertly placed punchlines that will draw comparisons to fellow comedian turned horror director Jordan Peele. 

The performances are all on point in, “Barbarian” led by Georgina Campbell as Tess. The terror of the film’s events are mirrored perfectly by Campbell, who the audience will certainly empathize with and root for. Bill Skarsgard plays Keith, the sleepy stranger whose ambiguous intentions make for an engaging mystery to solve. You may recognize his unnerving stare, as he also played Pennywise in the recent “It” films. Justin Long’s character AJ provides most of the comic relief from the gripping tension. His inclusion into the events of the film will challenge the audience and provide an entertaining moral dynamic to Tess. 

The film is shot extremely well, boasting a healthy variety of cinematography. Shots linger to build tension, darkness is utilized expertly in drawing the audience into the frame. Many jokes come from perfectly timed editing choices and the immersive sound design is what makes the anxious sequences so terrifying. In tandem with the film’s plot twists, is an underlying message that is more disturbing than the images on screen. “Barbarian” will terrify you in your seat, but have you dissecting its themes well after you leave the theater. 

The film’s only negative is that some sequences may come across as cheesy or cartoonish, but the camp will only make for a quick scoff that shouldn’t be held against a fantastically executed horror movie. As a disclaimer, the film does include plot points centered around sexual assault, but does not depict the acts on screen. In summary, “Barbarian” is a thrilling time that any horror enthusiast should see in theaters this Halloween season. One of the most captivating horror movies of the past few years.