A woman staying at an Airbnb discovers that the house she has rented is not what it seems.
‘Barbarian’, the solo directorial debut of Zach Creggar, is that rarest of things in that it is a horror movie that is genuinely challenging and dare I say original? It takes place in the abandoned suburbs of Detroit and centres on a problem only made possible by modern times – arriving at a rented apartment to discover that someone else has also booked the same place. She is Tess (Georgina Campbell), who arrives late at her AirBnB apartment ahead of an interview the next day to find that Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there (he’d booked through Homestay).
After an awkward introduction, they decide the best way to deal with the situation is to share the apartment until they can find a better solution, something Tess in particular isn’t entirely comfortable with. Skarsgård’s role as the clown in ‘It’ may hint at something afoot, as might the creepy setting of the one ‘modern’ house in a neighbourhood left to nature to take over, and it doesn’t take long before Tess finds herself concerned about the secrets the house may hold.
It’s an intriguing setup for a horror movie that seems to revel in constantly wrongfooting its audience and I loved the way Creggar allows the story to unfold. You can say this about a lot of films but this is absolutely one of those movies that it is best to enter knowing as little about as possible. We’ve had a few good subversive horror movies over the past year (‘X’, ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’) and ‘Barbarian’ is another title that wears its influences on its sleeves, but it does so in a fresh setting with the decay of forgotten Detroit adding a specifically eerie and modern fable aspect to the movie. Campbell, Skarsgård and Justin Long make up the main trio and they are all superbly cast, with Creggar using their past roles or typical personas well to add colour to the characters they play in this particular movie.
There’s so much going on in ‘Barbarian’ that it could have become difficult to follow, but every development is timed to perfection to keep you on your toes. Creggar’s script is smartly written, blending familiar trappings of the genre with sharp social commentary and a good dose of dark humour, aided by the enjoyable performances of his cast (Long in particular is brilliant). Yes, this is a horror movie, and it does of course feature characters making dumb decisions, but it’s done so with a knowing wink that allows these characters to recognise the dumbness of their choices whilst making them anyway – they feel much more natural than the typical archetypes you find in the genre.
‘Barbarian’ is a really entertaining horror movie with an intriguing premise that develops well, with plenty to keep even your fairweather fans of the genre hooked – I was a big fan.
Directed By: Zach Creggar
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long and Richard Brake