Barbarian Features The Funniest Horror Movie Sequence Of The Year

As far as mainstream horror goes, "Barbarian" is a breath of fresh air, and certainly the type of studio film horror junkies are itching to see more often. Already being compared to last year's "Malignant," it's an oddball September release with minimal marketing, terrifying atmospheric horror, and most importantly, a great sense of humor to tie it all together. 

In fact, it has one of the funniest scenes of any movie released in 2022.

"Barbarian" follows Tess (Georgina Campbell), a woman who is pursuing a career in documentary film in Detroit and decides to stay at an Airbnb on the outskirts of town. When she realizes there is no key in the lockbox, she knocks on the door and meets Keith (Bill Skarsgard), an awkward but kind guy who was double-booked for this stay. With no other options, Tess decides to stay the night at the Airbnb, and the chaos unfolds from there.

This is one of those films that thrives off of the less information you know about it. So, if you haven't seen "Barbarian" yet, there are major spoilers ahead.

Barbarian's biggest surprise is its big perspective shift

One of the greatest surprises in "Barbarian" is the perspective shift that happens right at the film's midpoint. Just after Tess and Keith finally descend into the dark basement tunnels of the Barbary house and are attacked by the matriarchal mutant creature — credited as the Mother — the film immediately cuts to our second main protagonist, AJ Gildebride (played by horror and comedy veteran Justin Long.)

There's a twisted sense of dread and withholding as we're pulled away from the characters we've grown to like, only to be introduced to an abrasive personality in a seemingly disconnected thread. AJ is your everyday Hollywood dirtbag. He calls his buddies homophobic slurs, he says "I'm sorry if I offended you," and he is constantly babied by his mother. When we first meet him, he is in the midst of being fired from his TV pilot after an actress accuses him of sexual assault. We follow him as he speaks with a financial advisor, in hopes of funding a solid defense and defamation trial, only for him to flee California. As he lands in Detroit, we learn that he is the true owner of the Barbary house. 

AJ Gildebride is hilariously ambivalent

As AJ enters the Barbary house, the audience is eagerly anticipating some payoff to the first act's cliffhangers. Refreshingly, director Zach Cregger knows exactly how to exploit those exact curiosities. The film's tone becomes equally oblivious to the horror within the house as our new protagonist. Watching AJ bumble around the house, mess with Tess and Keith's belongings, and move the chair propping the basement door open back into the kitchen is an exercise of restraint.

Finally, when AJ does decide to go into the basement and discovers the secret door to the tunnels, he doesn't freak out. Instead, he frantically googles if the space could add more property value to his home. Armed with just his phone's flashlight and a tape measure, he descends into the tunnel, passing by familiar landmarks that once felt mortifying from Tess's perspective, nonchalantly measuring the dimensions of a bloody chamber with just a bed and a tripod mounted camera. In an otherwise short but sweet horror romp, AJ's scenes feel excruciatingly elongated, and watching the film with a full crowd reacting to AJ's blissful ignorance as he walks towards his demise was communal, comedic gold.

The scene is funny, but also thematically purposeful

While the dark sense of humor to this scene serves as a nice break between the moments of terror, it also ties back into an interesting thematic through-line. Tess had a conversation with Keith earlier in the film about the fundamental difference between how they navigate the world as a woman versus his perspective as a man. Though it's in a comedically heightened form, this tonal shift in portraying the descent into the tunnel as Tess in the first act versus AJ the second time around is very much a literal, cinematic manifestation of their gendered experiences. Ironically, the motherly domain in which AJ is stepping into is one of feminine power. As he runs into the Mother, his role in this story shifts from a sexual predator in position of power to a creature's vulnerable prey.

Like any great modern horror picture, "Barbarian" is a layered experience that understands how to manipulate its audience. However, it's been a long time since we've seen a studio horror flick so confident, meta, and willing to take big risks. Judging by the equally measured laughs and thrills the film earns in a fully packed cinema, its experiment was a success.