“Barbarian”: Horror’s new terrifying success



Georgina Campbell and Georgina Campbell star in Zach Cregger’s latest release “Barbarians.”

This year’s horror line-up may have a new first place after “Barbarian.” The film left viewers screaming in terror, both from the actual movie monsters and the accurate caricatures that made even the most satirical situations all too realistic. Purposefully misleading marketing for the movie and an effective character-driven narrative creates an immersive experience that pulls the viewer past the unknown, into a story you can’t help but keep watching. As you are flung into a story that while fictional and thankfully impossible, has just enough reality sprinkled, the fear is all too present.

“Barbarian,” in its most basic form, is about Tess Marshall, a young woman who finds out the AirBnB she rented for a job interview already has an occupant after being double-booked. With nowhere else to go in the desolate part of town, she reluctantly stays and slowly befriends the stranger. Upon the discovery of a concealed door in the basement leading to a network of equally haunting tunnels, she must fight for survival amidst the secrets of the house.

This movie is not at all what you expect after seeing a trailer or making assumptions off of the first ten minutes. The genius marketing, with misleading advertising and ambiguous trailers, is probably what makes the movie so powerful. The drastic twists and turns throughout also keep you on the edge of your seat, uncertain of what else may be lurking in the dark. To spoil this movie would be to completely ruin it because the unknown, paired with the jarring realization of what is actually happening, is what gives the viewer whiplash and glued to their seat for more.

Wading through the uncertainty and taking the audience along for the ride is protagonist Tess Marshall, played by Georgina Campbell. In true final girl fashion, Campbell has you rooting for her until the bitter end. Her performance is supported by Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long. Both deserve praise for their performances though Skarsgård’s slightly creepy characterization may simply be from the audience’s continual perception of him as the clown from “It.” 

As for Long, his character, who is thrown against the horrors of the house with Campbell, is such a scum-bag that all you can do is hate him even when he shows a glimmer of redemption. It is honestly impressive how much you can despise him even in comparison to the movie’s villain, forcing the audience to question who the real antagonist is. 

No matter how great these performances are, what makes them so worthwhile is the dialogue. The screenplay, written by director Zach Cregger, crafts these characters into three-dimensional beings within this fictitious world. Every single one of their actions and choices makes sense on such a humanly-flawed level and is justified as hints and character traits are sprinkled throughout. You may need to dissect it a little bit, but there is enough explanation within the ambiguity that it just makes sense.

The only potential issue within the movie is what makes it oddly unique: the shock and awe factor. For a first-time viewer, it is utterly horrifying as the sudden information being thrown at you culminates in a lot of effective jump scares in an already tense situation. To be clear, jump scares are absolutely nothing original to the genre, but the way they are done within this context gives an overload of epiphany and adrenaline that leaves you reeling. 

If horror is your genre, this movie is definitely one of the best thus far this year, though it is not for the faint of heart. A word advice for the next viewer though: go in blind. Uncertainty is your ally even as it clouds your judgment and raises your heartbeat. Conversely, take a moment to process what just happened when the lights turn back on. The ending gives whiplash like no other. While “Barbarian” may not have been a blockbuster, it has proven to be an audience favorite and a truly terrifying experience.