Watch The Creepy Pitch Reel That Got Barbarian Made

"Barbarian" has quietly emerged as one of the biggest surprises of 2022. Written and directed by Zach Cregger, the subversive horror film centers on Tess (Georgina Campbell), a woman who rents an Airbnb ahead of a job interview in Detroit, only to find the house has been double-booked by a fellow named Keith (Bill Skarsgård). To say too much more would be to spoil the fun for those who've yet to see the movie (which you absolutely should asap), so I'll leave it at that.

In terms of its influences, "Barbarian" feels practically tailor-made for the current era of horror, in which filmmakers like Jordan Peele have come to fame making movies that blend imaginatively creepy imagery with biting humor and sharp social commentary. It's also a film that's hyper-aware of where the horror genre is at right now, flipping common tropes on their heads, embracing an unorthodox narrative structure, and casting well-known actors with the understanding audiences will immediately assume certain things about the characters they're playing (be those assumptions accurate or not).

If there were any doubts Cregger knows his horror, then the creepy pitch reel he and his wife, actor Sara Paxton, put together for "Barbarian" will lay them to rest. The video doesn't actually spoil anything about the film and instead uses clips from movies as varied as "It," "Don't Breathe," "Mama," and even Michael Haneke's 1997 Austrian thriller "Funny Games" to allude to its story's ever-changing tone.

The pitch vs. the official marketing

The "Barbarian" pitch or "rip/mood" reel was posted to Twitter by producer Roy Lee and later re-tweeted by Cregger. Besides re-purposing clips from older horror movies, Cregger said he also used footage from various YouTube videos for the reel and that Paxton played Tess for the phone call voice-over. Take a look below.

Interestingly, the pitch reel is similar to the official "Barbarian" trailer in that it teases the scene in the film where Tess finds a hidden door in the rental house she's staying at (unaware of the horrors lurking behind it). The phone call, on the other hand, isn't in the movie at all, although the details it conveys — that Tess had a fight with her now-ex-boyfriend right before her trip to Detroit — still come across clearly in the first act. As for the music, it's almost exactly the same as the deeply unsettling score Anna Drubich wound up crafting for the film.

The other major difference between this pitch reel and the "Barbarian" marketing is the former makes vague allusions to the danger awaiting Tess at her Airbnb, suggesting it might be supernatural à la the clips from "It" and "Mama." By comparison, the official trailer is even less transparent about the horrors within the rental house, juxtaposing imagery of a pleasant neighborhood on a sunny day with an unknown voice talking about a "pleasurable experience" and quick cuts of people running and screaming.

Having seen the film, I have to commend both Cregger (for his pitch reel) and the movie's marketing team for finding very different ways of selling the premise for "Barbarian" without revealing many (or, rather, any) of its secrets. To learn just what those are, you'll just have to check out the film for yourselves in theaters.