Barbarian (2022)

Director: Zach Cregger
Writer: Zach Cregger
Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis
Seen on: 5.1.2023

Content Note: (mention of) rape

Tess (Georgina Campbell) is in Detroit for a job-interview. Having rented a house for a night, she arrives late to discover that somebody else is already staying there – Keith (Bill Skarsgård). Keith is about as flustered about the mix-up as she is, and for a lack of better options, they decide to share the house for the night. As uncomfortable as the situation is, there is even more going on with that house than meets the eye.

Barbarian can be divided into three parts – two of which are really good in very different ways and a third that doesn’t work at all. If you’re prepared for the let-down of the final act, you can enjoy the first two a lot.

The film poster showing a close-up of Tess (Georgina Campbell) looking scared. Below her chin is a camera.

The first part of the film is the one I outlined in the plot section above. Tess’ wariness to trust Keith is the audience’ wariness as well. Keith seems to say and do all the right things, but we can never be sure if he is being honest or if he is playing a part, trying to lure Tess. The film uses that extremely well, and Skarsgård (an inspired bit of casting) and Campbell really nail that dynamic.

Then there is a jump and the film turns to AJ (Justin Long). We don’t know at first how much time has passed, nor do we know how he is connected to Tess and Keith. But, my goodness, he is such a horrible person that you are still glued to the screen as you figure out how it all comes together. Long plays “sleazy asshole” amazingly, and manages to get some needed humor into the film as well.

Keith (Bill Skarsgård) looking confused at Tess' (Georgina Campbell) phone in the doorway of the rental house.

And then there is the third act of the film that doesn’t really do the two parts that came before it justice. It is too uninspired and lacks the tension of the first part and the vivacity of the second. I was mostly bored by the same old, same old storyline that I also had trouble suspending my disbelief for. It also feels a little pointless because it just doesn’t really work with the themes of patriarchal violence that the film establishes before – it is too busy making a monster of the biggest victim.

Barbarian shows promise but ultimately doesn’t fulfill it. But I think that the first two parts of it are good enough to warrant a viewing anyway. Though one probably wouldn’t miss much if one turned off the film as soon as AJ comes to the house and discovers its secrets.

AJ (Justin Long) on the floor of a dark hallway, shining a flashlight, looking very scared.

Summarizing: could have been more, but has very strong parts.

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