Over the last decade, people really seem to have changed their perspective on what constitutes a stranger. People use apps to get rides from strangers, and freely give them their home addresses. Others rent their homes or extra rooms to strangers from far away to crash for a few days. The trust we extend to people we barely know in the name of convenience seems to have increased exponentially, and Zach Cregger’s new film, Barbarian (2022), plays on the paranoia some of us still have about these things.
Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives at her Airbnb location only to find that it has been double booked, and Keith (Bill Skarsgård) beat her to the keys and the space. Fortunately, Keith is a reasonable guy, and invites Tess inside to contact the renter and try and figure out how such a screw-up took place. Against her better judgment – and desperate for an escape from the cold Detroit rain – Tess walks in.
Campbell and Skarsgård are terrific in the lead roles. The situation is immediately anxiety-inducing, and anyone familiar with Skarsgård’s filmography will be immediately suspicious of his character, Keith. The trailers really can’t do this film’s plot or story enough justice, because the film takes twists and turns one should not see coming to truly feel the full impact of Cregger’s movie. There are some very cool nods to horror and thrillers of the past, with enough originality to make Barbarian jump high on my 2022 list of movies.
I deeply enjoy seeing the art of filmmaking on display. The set design, characters, cinematography, and editing are all expertly crafted and delivered for this story. When Tess discovers a secret in the basement, we are reminded of her character’s consistent behavior. She is cautious but curious, with a pretty solid head on her shoulders. Not every choice she makes is perfect, but they all align with the person we’ve been getting to know. As the camera darts to well-placed close-ups and the story pacing ramps up, it’s easy to see why a film like this works where so many other horror films feel trite, or just plain bad.
Without getting into his exact impact or role, I do want to give Justin Long a shot out here. I recently reviewed another horror film, House of Darkness, that I wasn’t as fond of. However, I really enjoyed him in this movie. Every act that is delivered through the unique plot structure found in Barbarian worked effectively well for me, and I left the theater quite thrilled with the experience. Barbarian earns the Must See rating.