Currently playing in US cinemas, and arriving in the UK on October 28th, is the horror movie, Barbarian. The film – written and directed by Zach Cregger – stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, and Richard Brake, and follows the story of a young woman who finds herself in trouble after booking an Airbnb.
In the movie, Tess Marshall is staying in Detroit for an important interview. As she needs to stay in the city for a few days, she books an Airbnb and travels to her accommodation.
Upon arrival, it’s night time, it’s pouring down with rain, and she discovers the keys are missing from the lockbox. To her further surprise, Tess then finds out the reason the keys are missing is because someone else is in the house – a young man named Keith.
Keith tells Tess that he too has booked this Airbnb, as he needs to stay in the area. He doesn’t understand why the house has been double-booked, but with it being late and wet outside, he invites her in, so they can try and straighten out the situation.
Although Tess is a little reluctant to go inside, she decides to accept the invitation. Keith then offers to give up his bed for the night so Tess has somewhere to sleep, until they can speak to the owner in the morning.
But before long, Tess comes to regret her decision. The house holds a sinister secret, and it is a secret that could prove deadly.
Will Tess manage to escape the horrors of the house or is she in for an awful stay? And more importantly, did Barbarian test my patience and my sanity?
Now, when I first started watching Barbarian, I found myself quickly becoming very engrossed in the movie. The film has a very strong beginning, the early section of the movie knows how to build up tension and suspense, and I was thoroughly hooked by the initial premise.
In fact, my main thought throughout the first 40 minutes of this movie was that I would be giving Barbarian a very glowing review. I loved the set-up, everything seemed to work very well, and the film was heading in a creepy and intriguing direction.
Then around the 40-minute mark, Barbarian promptly shifted gears, moved its focus somewhere else, and started to become a different movie entirely. And unfortunately, the movie it morphed into was not the tense, suspenseful, creep-fest that it appeared to be, it was now a complete load of old tosh.
I won’t say what that tosh is, so there are no spoilers here, but I will say that if the first half of the movie is on the level of Psycho (1960), then the second half of the movie is pure Jeepers Creepers (2001) territory. The end result is an odd mix, and a film that starts great, but spaffs all of its goodwill up the wall when it chooses to descend into utter nonsense.
Such is the shift in direction in the story, that I had to check the end credits to see how many people were involved in coming up with the script for Barbarian. This movie feels very much like a picture that was written by two people, who both agreed to pen separate halves of the script, but then refused to speak to each other about it, once their work was done.
Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered it was just one writer, and not two. This film is entirely the work of Zach Cregger, and I’m sorry to say I wish he had redrafted his script.
I get that this is clearly the direction that Cregger wanted to take his movie, and that’s fine, but it just did not work for me – it’s not surprising or imaginative, it’s just rubbish. Cregger had me so invested to begin with, but by the end I was more than ready for it to be over, and this is all very disappointing.
I don’t want to keep piling on the criticism, because the film really is good to begin with, but it is filled with plot holes; it has characters doing odd things; and the central lead, Tess, makes a series of baffling choices which are just ludicrous. On more than one occasion she has the opportunity to remove herself from any of the horrors that unfold, and yet she repeatedly throws herself head-first into situations that even a crash test dummy would walk away from.
Because of all this, I just can’t recommend Barbarian. It has a couple of moments of humour, and I get the sense there are some attempts at satire in the film (including references to the unreliability of Airbnbs), but it all just falls apart and the tension and my interest died with it.
If you’re really interested in watching the movie, sit through the first 40 minutes, then stop. Don’t Google the film to find out what happens next, just conjure up an idea of how you think it all plays out and go with that.
I promise you, the film you imagine Barbarian to be is far better than the one that it is. A good start, but a bad end.