Barbarian is written and directed by Zack Cregger, and it stars Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård. Campbell plays a young woman who stays in a Detroit-area Airbnb that happens to be double-booked. Does the unexpected house guest have sinister intentions, and what secrets does the house itself have to offer? The rest of the film brilliantly pays off that set-up.
Barbarian does everything that good horror movies do. It has a creepy sense of dread, some grisly scares, a twisty plot, and a couple gruesome kills. It’s pulse-pounding and thrilling throughout. Until now, X and The Black Phone ranked among 2022’s best horror films (I would classify Nope as science fiction), and Barbarian joins that exclusive list.
There are deeper elements in Barbarian as well. Conversations about gender and racial dynamics are direct in the first act and become more palpable in the second act. Detroit, a city devastated in part by migration to the suburbs, is subject to Candyman-reminiscent criticisms about gentrification and police inaction.
It’s true that Barbarian’s characters occasionally do remarkably stupid things just to keep the plot moving, and these behaviors are incongruent with the careful preparation that Tess (Campbell) employs to keep herself safe at the film’s beginning. But that didn’t distract from the film’s effective and engaging horrors. While the film may be too tense and scary for non-horror fans, those who love the genre will find a lot to admire in Barbarian.