Director; Zach Cregger. Starring; Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, Bill Skarsgard. Rated R. Color. 102 Minutes.
“Barbarian” starts off as what appears to be your standard horror film. Could be a slasher flick. Perhaps a story from beyond the grave. What “Barbarian” turns out to be is an all over the place fake existential pop-scare mess with twisted themes that are very similar to the “Saw” or “The Devil’s Rejects” franchises’s. Yet for some reason critics love this fake intellectual nonsense, even comparing it to the classic “Evil Dead” franchise. Please…
We start the show with Tess (Georgina Campbell) who is traveling to Detroit for a job interview. She arrives at her AirBnB in the middle of the night during a rain storm to discover the key in the lock box is not there. On top of that, a stranger is already inside the house.
A confused Tess meets an equally perplexed Keith (Bill Skarsgard) who has also booked the same AirBnB that night. Still uneasy, Tess attempts to find a hotel. Due to a big convention in town all of the hotels near by are fully booked. Tess and Keith are stuck with each other. After a period of borderline fear for her life, Tess realizes this is a nice guy and they end up talking for hours.
And this is when “Barbarian” begins to go off the deep end. After a good first night of rest, noises are discovered emanating from the dark basement. I don’t know, maybe do not go down there armed with only a flash light? But hey, that would just make sense. What is discovered is a series of underground tunnels with zero light sources entering the space. How these evil creatures (who are actually freak humans *spoiler alert) were able to build this intricate maze underneath several other houses in a low income neighborhood is beyond me.
The scary music builds and the creepy noises’s haunt until suddenly Tess is attacked by a freakish figure. End of act one.
A short time later the owner of the house AJ (Justin Long), a sleazy actor, shows up to prepare the house for sale as he needs money for a sexual harassment settlement. AJ does not expect any hiccups as he spends little time at this side home as the city of Detroit is beneath his ego. He certainly is not going to miss this place. Then, just like Tess and Keith, he for some reason thinks checking out the basement is the right choice.
I’ll be general with the twists, which all make zero sense. It involves the original owner years ago kidnapping women and creating a line of freaks born in incest. Nobody notices because this is a super low income block. Apparently a nice house in this neighborhood does not put up a red flag. When Tess discovers the truth via videotape in the dungeon it takes her way too long to maybe just get the hell out of dodge. Perhaps the icing on the cake is when we finally see the main big bad creature. She is not a mythical zombie, alien, vampire, demon, the usual suspects. She is a hunchback incest baby who has never seen sunlight and somehow is freakishly strong. There’s even a point in which she rips a guys arms off without exerting much effort. If these characters can’t fight her off they deserve to die.
“Barbarian” is a movie with zero substance while also not knowing how to accomplish horror comedy either. The acting is paint by numbers stupidity and random screams. Skarsgard is the only one marginally above par with his creepy portrayal of a guy that maybe is or maybe isn’t evil. I will give “Barbarian” one thing, it is incredibly well shot. Cinematographer Zach Kuperstein shows an astute understanding of how to raise tension through calculated framing and minimalist lighting in creating slow burn style cinema.
That one element is about it in this otherwise awful movie. Director Zach Cregger tries unsuccessfully again and again to rip off horror movies and horror-comedies in moments that make zero sense. This happens every year. A completely fake intellectual movie gets rave reviews. Last year it was critics gushing over the terrible “The Green Knight”. “Barbarian” belongs in that same category in 2022.
SUCK FACTOR: 6 out of 7 (7 Means Your Movie Really SUCKS!)
The SUCK FACTOR! How it works. we have flipped the script on the standard rating system. If you make a masterpiece such as “The Godfather” then your film receives a perfect 0 SUCKS! On the other hand, if you make absolute garbage, such as a Michael Bay movie, you receive an imperfect 7 score. That means your movie really SUCKS!