Stupid choices and freaky people make for one fun horror film.
“Barbarian” is a horror movie in which you don’t really know what to expect when you’re expecting. You know it has something to do with two strangers who apparently are sharing the same Airbnb, which has a basement with a secret door leading to another secret door, and then something freaky happens. The house is in perfect shape in a Detroit neighborhood, which looks like a complete dump. You expect the guy to be some kind of a creep, especially since we dealt with that similar concept in “Gone in the Night,” but actually, the guy is as shocked as the girl and the audience.
It can also be labeled a satire if you look at the number of stupid choices, regarding that creepy basement and that creepy door. As Roger Ebert once said with “The Grudge,” You should never, never stick your hand in a place where you heard a scary noise.” You should never go into a place that looks creepy. Even the audience is laughing at how the main heroine responds:
The main heroine I’m referring to is Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell from “Murdered by My Boyfriend” and “All My Friends Hate Me”), who is up for a job interview for an independent filmmaker, and ends up crashing with the stranger Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgard). She’s stressed that they booked the same place from different websites, and that she can’t find a hotel because of some convention. And he promises her he didn’t spike the tea or wine, and they have their conversations together.
Then, as they begin to experience what horrors the secret doors open, we meet the actor AJ Gilbride (Justin Long), who is facing a rape allegation from his co-star. He makes the stupid choice of flying from LA to Detroit to try to sell some of the houses he owns in that same neighborhood. Besides what he’s about to experience, him leaving the state at the worst possible time, it doesn’t look good for him. But focusing more on him being in that very same Airbnb, the allegations against him would now become a hiccup.
There are cops Tess tries to get help from, but they think she’s crazy, and they don’t seem to have the kind of twisty payoff, but we’re more interested in what these three strangers find in the basement. It’s freaky and bizarre, so maybe that’s putting it mildly. But I have a hunch it’s something that Stephen King or Radio Silence or R.L. Stine would approve of.
“Barbarian” was written and directed by Zach Cregger, who also made the awful comedy “Miss March” and co-created the sketch comedy “The Whitest Kids U’ Know.” Here, he satirizes the horror genre and a little bit of the #MeToo era, and he has Campbell, Skarsgard, and Long stepping outside their comfort zones. One is stressed, one is strange, and the other is a jerk. I think you know who I’m referring to.
I’ve seen so many horror films that make stupid choices like “Morgan” or “The Curse of La Llorna,” and you have no idea how much they make me cringe. “Barbarian” knows how to handle the stupidity and craziness without trying to cater to what the horror moths want, but rather what they need out of horror films. Note the difference between “want” and “need.” It has patience, which tries to explain why what we’re about to see is something we never want to see in real life.
Besides, I’ll take Long throwing Campbell’s laptop on a table like a careless jerk over him being ripped apart and being turned into a walrus in “Tusk.” But I’d rather not go into the details on that.