“Barbarian” Ending Explained: Breaking Down All The Twists

Warning: This article discusses spoilers for the twisty new horror movie “Barbarian.” If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our non-spoiler review here and more with the cast and director here.

This one-word title dominates “Barbarian,” one of 2022’s most deliciously twisted horror films, in which a woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) falls into a nightmare when she finds her rental home already occupied by a stranger.

It’s a roller-coaster horror ride filled with suspense, scares, surprising laughs, and some of the most delightful cinematic twists since last year’s “Malignant.”

What Tess discovers in the basement leads her into a maze of unimaginable horrors – some closer than you think. But who is the real monster in filmmaker Zach Cregger’s first solo Airbnb-of-horrors feature?

Bill Skarsgard stars in “Barbarian”.

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The Nice Guy and the Cute Encounter from Hell

At first, signs point to said handsome stranger, Keith (‘It’ star Bill Skarsgard, also executive producer, ably playing his character Pennywise), who turns up the charm to get Tess to let her guard down and spend the night, otherwise. brave the storm outside. After a few kind gestures and a good conversation, she ignores her instincts and says yes – even as Cregger’s script and Skarsgard’s delivery create searing ambiguity around Keith’s motives.

“My only note to Bill [Skarsgard] was, ‘Don’t lean on the creeps. Lean on Nice,” Cregger said. “The kinder you are and the more disarmingly, friendly, attractive and non-threatening you behave, the more the public will be convinced that you are evil.”

Inspired in part by security expert Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear,” “Barbarian” conjures up a minefield of misogynistic red flags for its heroine to navigate before she even crosses paths. ‘Local Andre (Jaymes Butler), sitcom actor AJ (Justin Long), and a violent tunnel dweller known as Mother (played expressly by Matthew Patrick Davis).

“[Keith] insists on bringing her luggage, he makes her tea that she said she didn’t want, he says, ‘Nice name,'” Cregger said. “Those are not appropriate things to do in this situation. But he is not aware of it, because he thinks he is being nice.

Is there something more sinister about Keith that Tess can’t see? Does it have something to do with doors opening and closing in the middle of the night? The question hangs in the air as Tess makes a series of chilling discoveries in the basement, where a hidden door leads to a shadowy hallway and a secret room where very bad things have clearly happened.

Beyond that is yet another doorway leading to the subterranean lair of the film’s apparent titular monster – the Unstable Mother.

A woman holds a flashlight at the top of a flight of stairs.

A creepy basement or extra square footage? Hidden pieces lead to unexpected terrors in “Barbarian”.

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The mother under the stairs

“She was described as 7ft tall, naked, her face looking like an inbred product and having impossible strength,” said Davis, the 6ft 8in actor and musician behind the most surprising character in “Barbaric.” He was cast after a Zoom audition in which he stripped naked and imitated biting a rat’s head with a pickle he found in his refrigerator.

I was very aware that it could be funny in a good way or a bad way,” Davis said of her “barbaric” performance. “When you’re in it, you have no idea how it’s going to be perceived. You are aware that it’s a big swing and it’s crazy and that, you know, you’re sitting naked in Bulgaria with breasts stuck to your chest. Are people going to buy this?

Before filming began last summer, he received advice from legendary creature performer Doug Jones, including the line between physical expression and non-verbal overreaction and another practical pro tip: get some contacts with creatures on prescription, otherwise you might bite it chasing your co-stars through these. dark tunnels.

You are sitting naked in Bulgaria with breasts stuck to your chest. Are people going to buy this?

— Matthew Patrick Davis, “Barbarian” star

But Mother’s story is also the film’s most tragic. To inform his emotional state, Davis studied profiles of feral children and adults, delving deep into “a dark and disturbing YouTube rabbit hole” of research. As he sat in a chair for three hours doing makeup and makeup every day, he watched the videos to get ready.

“It opened me up to the reality of the lives of people who were deeply abused, raised in cages, raised like animals, kept in darkness and never spoken to during their formative years” , did he declare. “It allowed me to empathize with this character. She’s not just a scary character for fear’s sake. If you’ve seen the movie, you know she’s a victim.

“I think she’s the most empathetic character in the movie. She never had a chance,” echoes Cregger, who also credits Davis with inspiring him to write certain gestures in the well-known motherhood VHS tape. worn-out Mother, which comes full circle in the film’s bittersweet final scene, “And Matthew plays it with such tenderness.”

The sins of the father

After introducing Mother, the horror movie monster we’ve come to expect, Cregger challenges us throughout the film to reconsider who the real barbarian in the story is. First seen in a Reagan-era flashback, Frank (Richard Brake, who recently starred in Amazon’s ‘Bingo Hell’ and killed Bruce Wayne’s parents in ‘Batman Begins’) is his inverse – a average suburban family man on the outside and a real freak on the inside.

Borrowing from the serial killer films “Angst” (1983) and “Elephant” (both Gus Van Sant’s 2003 feature and Alan Clark’s 1983 short of the same name), Cregger creates unease as as the camera follows Frank to the store, where he stocks up on a suspicious grocery list, and as he tracks down a young woman in her home.

It is revealed that he has kidnapped, raped, and impregnated several women in the secret chambers beneath his house without repercussions for decades, and that Mother is the daughter of another of his victims, born in miserable captivity.

But that’s to say it’s not Tess who learns the horrible truth about Frank in the movie. Instead, it’s AJ (Long, playing skillfully against type) running from Mother to a section of the tunnels where even she doesn’t dare follow.

A scene from the movie "Barbaric."

Justin Long stars as AJ, the owner of the rental house, in “Barbarian.”

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Enter the Hollywood actor

Introduces carefree cruising the Pacific Coast Highway while singing “Riki Tiki Tavi” by Donovan the narcissistic Hollywood star recently entered his own version of a nightmare: a sexual assault accusation that threatens to unravel his glittering career.

“Because I’m an actor and I know the acting world so well, I was writing from an amalgam of people in my life,” Cregger said of AJ’s character design. “I was trying to think, ‘What is this guy’s horror movie?’ Before you get into the real horror movie – what horror movie does he think he’s in? The collapse of your career and reputation due to your own bad behavior. This guy thinks his world is falling apart. ended.

AJ, who at first appears to be a ridiculous comic figure, turns out to be arguably the scariest character in the film. In Detroit to liquidate his rental house to cover his impending legal bills, he epitomizes male privilege and occasional misogyny, his inflated bravado masking an inherent cowardice and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions. (Although it’s not explicitly addressed in the film, Cregger says he deliberately wrote that the men in “Barbarian” were white men.)

When AJ discovers Frank ailing and judges him over his brutal crimes, the audience is prompted to wonder: how different is he from the monster watching him?

Frank, at least, seems to know he can’t escape what he’s done. AJ’s brief moment of clarity goes back to gaslighting self-preservation as he commits one last heinous act, attempting to hide his true nature behind a well-practiced nice-boy veneer – a long-borrowed quality watching men make empty apologies on “The Bachelorette.”

“There’s a glimmer of responsibility,” Long said, “and I love that Zach refuses to take the conventional route.”

As for Tess, it is her innate sense of empathy – the kind that repeatedly sends her into danger to help others, at her peril – that helps her understand Mother before she does. free them both. “He’s someone who is used to traumatic situations and is able to figure out how to survive in that situation,” Campbell said. “By the end of the film, I feel like she has her own agency and is able to break out of the pattern she’s found herself in over and over again.”

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