Movie Review: ‘Barbarian’ – Catholic Review

NEW YORK – Airbnb beware: The 20th-century horror tale “Barbarian” will do nothing to promote home-away-from-home rentals.

Bill Skarsgård as Keith in ‘Barbarian’. (Courtesy 20th Century)

In fact, the plot of this scary but not very believable film begins when two strangers – aspiring filmmaker Tess (Georgina Campbell) and kind but clumsy Keith (Bill Skarsgård), about whom we know very little at first – discover that they were double-booked to stay in the same house in a run-down Detroit neighborhood. They manage, Keith giving up the bedroom to Tess and taking the couch for the night.

As Tess gets to know Keith – and is satisfied that he’s not a psychopath – the pair become friends and there’s even a hint of potential romance in their interaction. But they are quickly distracted from these thoughts by the discovery that their shared temporary accommodation contains terrifying secrets.

The plot, which ultimately involves the home’s absentee owner AJ (Justin Long), an uncaring Hollywood actor facing a ruinous lawsuit for sexual harassment, hinges on highly unrealistic behavior from the directors. Still, adults willing to treat writer-director Zach Cregger’s skin-crawler as a tongue-in-cheek kick in the footsteps can have fun, though advance warning is due on many levels.

First, the theme underlying the debates is not so much feminist as downright anti-masculine. In word and deed, the film portrays most men as predatory cowards.

Plus, while far more understated than the average slasher flick, “Barbarian” includes two fleeting scenes of utterly blood-soaked mayhem. These may only take up a small portion of the overall running time, but finicky eaters of any age will want to avoid them.

Look for: A wild twist on the haunted house trope.

Attention : Brief but offensively bloody violence, superior and dark female nudity in a non-sexual context, about half a dozen uses of profanity, several softer oaths, pervasive rudeness, and foul language.

The Catholic film buff’s advice is L – suitable for a limited adult audience. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

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