“Things are always better in the morning” is a quote from Pulitzer Prize winning author, Harper Lee’s iconic, 1960 novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” In many instances, applied to numerous situations, the quote may be applicable, but not for Tess, portrayed by BAFTA winner Georgina Campbell (Murdered by my Boyfriend). She has arrived, at night, during a rainstorm, to the Airbnb she booked on-line. Tess has an important job interview the following day. She hopes to be hired to work on a documentary film. Unbeknownst to her, the place she booked, is in a virtually abandoned neighborhood, in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. The surrounding houses are dilapidated, and appear to have been stripped for whatever value was once contained in them. There is also seemingly no one around for miles. Or is there?
The aforementioned is a problem Tess won’t even realize until later. After entering the code into the lockbox, there is no key. As it turns out, the Airbnb that she booked, has been double booked. Keith played by Bill Skarsgard (IT), is already inside the house. He thinks that he has the place to himself, when Tess shows up. Keith is genial about the situation. Even though he is there first, he is willing to share the place with Tess. He even offers to forgo use of the bedroom, and sleep on the couch, so Tess can get some rest for her interview. Tess is uncertain about taking Keith up on his offer, and she is initially guarded. As the evening progresses, however, and Tess gets to know Keith, she starts to feel more comfortable. What neither of them realize is that they have a great deal more to worry about than having double booked the same place.
Tess notices a door at the end of the hallway. Where it leads to, she’s unsure of. The next day, after she returns from her interview, Tess decides to investigate. Leaving Tess’s exploration aside, the film moves from the downtrodden neighborhood in Michigan, and shifts to California. Driving in his convertible, singing an irritating song is AJ played by Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers). As evident from a phone call he receives, things had, up until that moment when the viewer is introduced to him, been going well in his career. What is said to him during the phone call puts a severe damper on things. I think it would be a disservice, to those of you who would like to see the movie, for me to reveal any more about the plot. This is one of those films, where knowing less about what you’ll be watching, provides a better payoff, at least it did for me.
“Barbarian” was written and directed by Zach Cregger. The film premiered on August 29, 2022 at FrightFest, in London. Parts horror and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 102 minutes. Zach Kuperstein’s (The Eyes of my Mother) cinematography does an excellent job of capturing the palpable tension and suspense throughout the film. Furthermore, the music composed by Anna Drubich (Odessa), makes what is taking place on screen, especially the more intense moments, feel that much more impactful. Additional cast members of note that have not been previously mentioned were: Matthew Patrick Davis (American Dad!), who portrays the character of the mother. There is also Frank, a role acted by Richard Brake (Bingo Hell), who delivers a spot on performance as a repulsive human being.
“Barbarian” is the sort of film, where just when you begin to think you’ve figured out exactly what is taking place, the filmmakers, offer a new twist which changes things. The movie is well written and contains a solid plot. Campbell and Skarsgard had wonderful chemistry, and do a more than credible job setting up, in the first act, what will take place, during the remainder of the film. For genre fans that want to watch something that provides scares, thrills, and some dark comedic interludes, this film should hold your interest. As of the writing of this post, “Barbarian” is currently streaming on HBO Max.