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Barbarian (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 9, 2022


Starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler, Jaymes Butler, J.R. Esposito, Kate Bosworth, Sophie Sörensen, Brooke Dillman, Sara Paxton, Will Greenberg, Derek Morse, Trevor Van Uden, Zach Cregger, Kalina Stancheva and Devina Vassileva.

Screenplay by Zach Cregger.

Directed by Zach Cregger.

Distributed by 20th Century Studios. 102 minutes. Rated R.

Well it started out well. That’s something, right?

I’ll even go so far as to say that the first 30-40 minutes of Barbarian was terrific – a promising set up for a smart and funny and creepy genre film.

But boy howdy, did it ever fall apart quickly after that. The story got more and more nonsensical as it went on, venturing into new unneeded characters and plotlines popping up out of the blue. Not only that, but the characters also kept performing actions that were just so amazingly stupid that I walked out wondering what the hell I just watched.

I mean, I get that you have to give a certain amount of leeway in horror movies. The victims are always doing the wrong things, otherwise you would not have a story. As the commercial says, why go to the running car when you can hide in the creepy shed? However, even in the realm of stupid horror reactions, this group is particularly boneheaded.

It had a wonderful set-up, though.

Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman in Detroit for a job interview to work on a new documentary film, shows up at a little Airbnb which she had rented in the middle of a torrential downpour. The house itself seems cute enough, although it is in the middle of a wreck of a neighborhood which looks like something out of Khaboul. However, when she tries to get the key from the lock box, it turns out there is no key there.

It turns out that a guy named Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there. Keith seems to be nice, seems to be a popular musician, seems to be down to Earth and he had also rented the house. Somehow, they got double booked. It is the middle of the night, and no one is in the real estate office. It is pouring and a medical convention has the local hotels booked, so Keith suggests that she stay over with him.

So they stay together. He gives her the bedroom and sleeps on the couch. But who opened her door in the middle of the night? Who is making noises somewhere in the house? What is causing Keith to have nightmares? Doesn’t Keith look an awful lot like Pennywise the clown? And what is that strange hidden room off of the basement?

Then, suddenly these two characters are disposed of (so to speak), although one returns to the action later. Instead, the lead is taken over by a smarmy Hollywood actor named AJ (Justin Long) whose career is being ruined by a #MeToo charge. By coincidence, he is also the owner of the house in Michigan (which is where he is from, although it appears he’s never actually been to the house himself). Suddenly unemployed, nearly broke and with lawyers’ fees piling up, he goes to the house to see if he can sell it.

And any chance this had of being a good movie dies a violent death.

The inconsistencies and ridiculous plot points start to pile up. As noted earlier, every character does the exact wrong thing, often putting their lives in mortal danger for people they barely even know. There is even a flashback which kind of explains what happened, although the timeline consistency of this explanation makes absolutely no sense. And don’t even get me started on the VHS tape that has apparently been playing on an endless loop in the basement for about 40 years.

Barbarian is a dark and sordid film, which I guess is okay, many horror films are. It certainly has more than its share of surprises and first-time writer/director Zach Cregger (previously best known as a member of the comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know) certainly has an interesting visual sense.

Too bad his movie turns out to be a complete mess.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: September 9, 2022.

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