The Midwestern United States has long served as a fertile ground for creepy stories through all storytelling mediums, with some of the cinematic highlights including Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Candyman, all of which use the devious elements of the region to explore the corruption of social and economic values. Barbarian bloodily claws its way straight into this canon by mining Detroit’s housing crisis as a basis for a twisty and terrifying narrative. It’s an instant American horror classic and one of the best theatrical experiences of the year.
This is a feature that majorly benefits from knowing as little as possible but it’s essential to contextualise the story at hand to understand why there is so much hype behind the film following its critical and commercial success in the US where it was released in September. The setup is simple: while lingering around in town for a job interview, Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) checks herself into an AirBnB in a poor neighbourhood and encounters another lodger, Keith (Bill Skarsgård), already staying in the home.
The confusion over the mixed messaging is courtesy of a greedy landlord (Justin Long) who has carelessly listed the property on multiple sites. Tess and Keith quickly develop a rapport and find themselves poking their noses around at the house’s various corners, leading them to uncover spooky secrets. From this point, it’s encouraged that the reader learns these details for themselves without reading anything further into the plot, for this is a wild ride that keeps one on both the edge of the seat and reaching for the nearest pillows to hide behind.
Yet, as unnerving as it gets, Barbarian is often a funny film too – one gag about floor measurements is sure to catch audiences off guard – courtesy of its director Zach Cregger, a founding member of the comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know. Next to Jordan Peele, Cregger proves that the pipeline from sketch comedy star to horror director may be the best base for delivering the freshest and funniest experiences in the genre space. It’s not often that such an outlandish horror film gets mainstream play (in recent years, only Malignant had the same effect), so it’s highly recommended to relish this opportunity on the big screen.
Barbarian is released nationwide on 28th October 2022.
Watch the trailer for Barbarian here: