The Daily Stream: Barbarian Is The Best Horror Movie You Can Watch This Halloween

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Barbarian"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: Trusting strangers can be scary, but staying at their house can be absolutely terrifying. Airbnbs have offered an alternative to hotels, usually cheaper, and sometimes even fancier and cleaner than a chain hotel or a bed and breakfast. I personally tend to look at Airbnb before I even think of looking at hotels for those very reasons, but no more. Because if there is one horror movie that has the potential to do to Airbnbs what "Jaws" did to beaches, it's "Barbarian." This is the kind of movie you should absolutely not watch while you're on vacation staying at an Airbnb, less you risk wanting to get the hell out of there as soon as you can. 

"Barbarian" follows Tess (Georgina Campbell), a woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview after finally leaving a terrible relationship behind. Like many of us these days, she books a rental home on Airbnb, but when she arrives in the middle of a rainy night, she discovers the house is double booked, and inside there is a strange man named Keith (perfectly fine, completely trustworthy Bill Skarsgård, who has not at all scarred our collective minds with his performance as Pennywise). After making the terrible decision to enter the house, Tess slowly realizes that a double-booked Airbnb is the least of her worries.

Why it's essential viewing

The thing about "Barbarian" is that it is an exercise in patience and anxiety. Director Zach Cregger said he wanted to make a horror movie loaded with red flags that would raise your mind's alarm, and he succeeded. Many horror movies are filled with red flags and bad decision-making, with characters doing dumb things in order for the plot to happen and for them to be punished. But "Barbarian" somehow feels scarier and more relatable because you understand why the characters would behave the way they do. Not that the movie is about stupid people acting stupid (except for that one guy), but it's about trusting others and cynicism. Of course we want Tess to get the hell out of the neighborhood and not enter the house with the creepy Pennywise-looking stranger, but it is the middle of the night, it's raining, and he seems nice enough — and every hotel in Detroit seems booked. Of course we would yell at Tess not to go into the creepy basement, but she hears a call for help, and by that point, you understand that she is a nice person who would want to help. Even if we don't like it, it makes sense.

What makes "Barbarian" one of the most unique horror movies of the year, however, is its expert handling of tones. Like "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Predator," Hitchcock's "Psycho" or even the gonzo masterpiece that is "Malignant," this is a movie that meticulously crafts a tone and atmosphere, then peels back layer after layer, does a switcheroo, and reveals a different but equally effective experience. The best compliment I can give "Barbarian" is that it plays in the same field as "RRR," with both feeling like several different movies in one package, each effective in its own right, but making an even better whole.

'You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave'

Indeed, while the first 40 minutes are intensely filled with dread (and relatability), the second act of "Barbarian" reveals something hilarious, absurdly dark, and starring Justin Long, all before the finale brings it all together in a terrifying, gonzo, and very memorable way.

If you haven't experienced "Barbarian" yet, this article is trying to be as vague as possible, because this is a movie you really need to experience to believe it. If you've seen it already and just want some validation for yelling at all your friends and acquaintances for not seeing it, and pestering them for weeks about how this is the greatest movie of the fall, then this is us validating your excellent choices. Now, why not read some more and discover that "Barbarian" was almost even grosser? And once you go down that rabbit hole, you start thinking about what it was like getting into the characters, particularly the standout star we know as The Mother.

With fantastic makeup effects, a great cast used in unexpected ways, and a series of payoffs that will make you want to cheer out loud (even if you're alone), then "Barbarian" is the best Halloween present you can give yourself.