Barbarian Review: A Genuinely Shocking (And Fun) Descent Into Horror

It has been a pretty darn good year for horror fans so far. We've had everything from the return of beloved franchises with "Scream" to the return of Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, the duo behind "Sinister," with the genre hit "The Black Phone." But oftentimes, it's the things that nobody sees coming that can shock and delights horror fans the most. And believe me when I tell you that shock is coming in the form of "Barbarian." You are not ready for the absolute unpredictable roller coaster of craziness that is about to happen to you when this movie hits theaters. It is the unexpected surprise of the year.

Writer/director Zach Cregger's latest centers on a young woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) who is traveling to Detroit for a job interview and, as so many of us do these days, books a rental home rather than a hotel. However, she discovers upon arriving late on a rainy night that the house has been double booked, with a strange man named Keith (Bill Skarsgard) already staying there. Against her better judgment, Tess decides to spend the evening, after much convincing from Keith. Unfortunately, she quickly finds that there is much more going on in that house than an irritating double booking.

A deceptively simple premise

One of the most surprising things about "Barbarian" is that it lures the viewer in with a deceptively simple premise. Plenty of horror lurks around the corner when one is in a new city with a stranger staying in the house that was supposed to be yours. Naturally, there is an added element with that stranger being a man and the late arrival being a woman. Cregger knows the simple conceit is enough to get people curious and plays with that masterfully. The movie is predictable, sure, until it absolutely isn't. Believe me when I tell you, nobody can guess where this movie is going once the train starts barreling down the tracks. It's ten different kinds of shocking.

It is at this point where I must do the annoying thing that always seems like a cop-out, but it must be said: go into this movie blind if you can. The less one knows about "Barbarian" heading in, the better the result. Credit where credit is due to Disney with the marketing on this one, as they've kept a tight lid on the surprises contained within. The experience is far richer for it and it cannot be overstated just how much moviegoers will be rewarded for putting some faith in this one. Just go along for the ride. Honestly, if you're lucky enough to see it in a packed theater of like-minded individuals, ride truly is the best way to describe it.

I don't make the comparison lightly, but this reminded me of James Wan's "Malignant," in that it has the same genuinely surprising nature to it, even if the movies couldn't be more different from a story and execution standpoint. But the sheer shock and audacity of it feels cut front the same cloth. I am also reminded of "From Dusk Till Dawn," a movie that is not a vampire movie and has no hint that it's going to be one until it very much is.

Scary delights best left unspoken

There are no great, direct comparisons that I have for this movie — but the key here is that it's hiding something rich (and scary!) underneath its misleadingly simplistic surface. It all felt pretty singular and refreshingly original to me. One huge reason for that is because Cregger does not forget to have a sense of humor about it all — in between bouts of extreme tension and horror, that is. "Barbarian" is a genuinely funny movie at times, but not so much that it distracts from the point — and the point is that this is a straight-up scary, unsettling movie.

"Barbarian" ends up being a masterclass in tension and unpredictability. It is scary without leaning too hard on tropes, making for a truly entertaining film. It is a damn good-looking movie anchored by great performances all around. It is the kind of movie that makes you want to yell at the screen, demanding a bit of rowdiness from the audience. While it may not be for everyone, those who it is for are going to absolutely love it, this I believe deep in my bones. With any luck, we'll be talking about this one for a long, long time.

/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10