An Airbnb nightmare

NOTHING is as it seems in Barbaricand there isn’t a film released this year that comes close, where trying to talk about the film without spoiling its story is akin to navigating a minefield.

The film follows the style of other major horror films released this year, such as Ti West’s X and pearland Jordan Peele No, where movies are driven by directors, not studios. Cheap horror gimmicks are pushed aside in favor of better storytelling, the deployment of visceral horror, and fueled vision.

In Barbaricdirector Zach Cregger seeks to subvert expectations and subvert the genre, which is done first through its narrative structure.

There are three stories in Barbaric which happen on their own before converging halfway through the film. Having a solid base and not clumsily slapped with artifice, these three stories could also be extrapolated and turned into three separate movies based solely on how they are directed, shot, and written differently.

No consolation at home

The first is the story of Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) and Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård).

Driving to Detroit on a rainy night, Tess arrives at the Airbnb house she has booked, only to find Keith already in the house. Due to a mix up, their reservations were double booked, correct?

Realizing she has no other options, Tess decides to spend the night in the house and Keith is friendly with her. she’ll take the bedroom, he’ll take the couch.

Everything should be fine, right? Of course, but Keith, a complete stranger, seems a little off. His size dominates Tess. He makes bizarre suggestions.

Or is it just our perception, shaped by other horror movies, playing tricks on us? Could the tall, white, handsome guy be a serial killer? If it’s not him, could it be the house itself that seems extinct?

Cregger plays the volatile unpredictability of the predicament on really tense levels, and Skarsgård – who played Pennywise the Clown in the He remakes – boosts both creep and charm factors impressively as the first part of the film gradually turns into madness.

Then the film changes gear.

Where the roads cross

Justin Long’s AJ Gilbride takes over during Barbaricthe middle part. Actor, Gilbride chooses to “run away” from a very real problem he caused.

Through Long, Cregger – who is also a comedian – injects humor into Barbaricfor the moment Gilbride becomes part of the story, levity and dark comedy on her part become crucial.

The comedic timing of how Gilbride reacts to the film’s wild revelations helps provide “wiggle room” for Barbarictense sequences.

At one point, the film shifts perspective again, nearly 40 years in the past, to Frank (Richard Brake), a man shopping for supplies and preparing for something secret.

Finally, the film comes full circle, with Barbaric put its main actors in the same story.

Very aware of tropes in terrible horror films, Barbaric cleverly navigates these traps and weaponizes the viewer’s expectations and predictions against them.

This review won’t do justice to Cregger’s solo directorial debut, because a smart, self-aware horror flick like Barbaricwith its labyrinthine amount of heels and twists, rarely happens.

Barbaric is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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