“Barbarian” Movie Review


Photo Courtesy: IMDb

Ava Nelson, Reporter

Spoilers Ahead:


“Barbarian” is the sleeper hit of 2022 horror. This film was given minimal advertising and marketing and it has still managed to find popularity in horror fans, but also in people that would not typically watch horror movies. The positive response makes sense, this film is arguably the best horror since Jordan Peele’s “Us” and Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” in 2019. The gore and body horror are incredible. Director, Zach Cregger, did an amazing job holding the suspense until the last second. The plot of “Barbarian” is an allegory for gendered violence and sexual abuse. Typical horror roles and tropes are turned on their heads, and at no point in “Barbarian” can you predict at all what might happen next. The trailer for the film did not even scratch the surface of what happens in the three main acts. 

Act 1 starts as a typical horror movie, Tess, portrayed by Georgina Campbell, arrives at her Airbnb in Greektown, Detroit in the middle if the night. Keith, portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, opens the door in his pajamas, the pair then finds out the Airbnb was double booked. This set up seems obvious, Keith will gain Tess’s trust and will torment her in some weird way, concluding in her death in the abandoned neighborhood. This set up continues until the end of Act 1 where Tess gets trapped in the basement and finds a hidden hallway ending in a room with a camera, a bed, a bucket, and a bloody handprint on the wall. The implications of this room are evident, the viewer assumes this is Keith’s gross room and he is going to come home and turn from a sweet, trustworthy guy to a disturbed killer. However, Keith seems just as confused as Tess. He goes to the basement to investigate, and soon starts calling for help, luring Tess into the basement like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. The viewer wants to scream “Don’t go down there!” but Tess goes. She finds another secret basement at the end of the hallway, leading to dirty, dark, underground tunnels. Keith pops out of the darkness creating the jumpscare shown in the trailer. Keith tells Tess there’s something else down there, when the Barbarian runs up behind Keith, smashing his head into the wall repeatedly.

Act 2 opens on a hard cut to AJ, portrayed by Justin Long, a sleazy Hollywood executive driving a red convertible along the ocean. AJ receives a call from his managers, informing him that an actress he worked with has filed a lawsuit against him for rape. This perspective indicates the theme that will continue through the movie, men being unable to take accountability for their impacts on others. AJ needs to liquidate his assets in order to be able to pay off the actress, so he returns to his property in Greektown. He goes downstairs in order to measure the square footage, leading him to discover the hidden basement. 

This is followed by another hard cut to the neighborhood in the 1970’s before it was abandoned. Frank, the owner of the house, is revealed to be keeping women in the basement and having babies with them. It is later revealed that Frank had been having babies, with the babies, with the babies. This incest creates the Barbarian as we come to know her. This draws parallels to AJ’s sexual abuse of women, but AJ is hanging on to the idea that he is a good person. This is an issue that has been hit on for years, but “Barbarian” makes a hard hitting commentary on how men can live in denial of their actions. AJ does not think that he raped the actress because he coerced her, this allows him to live in ignorance. Towards the end of the movie, AJ finds Frank in a room in the basement, old and dying. AJ finds Frank’s tapes and watches them, we hear women crying and screaming on the TV. When AJ turns around and tells Frank that he is a terrible person, Frank is holding a gun, It looks like he is going to shoot AJ, but he turns it around and shoots himself in the mouth. This continues with the themes of refusing to take accountability. Frank did not feel guilty until he got caught and thought the police might get involved.

Act 3 begins when the Barbarian captures AJ and throws him in a pit with Tess. The Barbarian soon comes back with a huge baby bottle full of milk, she shoves it through the grate to urge them to drink out of it. This is the first thing that begins to humanize the Barbarian. She just wants them to be her babies because that is all she was bred to do. When AJ won’t drink from the bottle, she pulls him out and brings him to the breastfeeding room, forcefully breastfeeding him. Another thing that is interesting in “Barbarian” is how she takes power in her nakedness. In horror movies, typically, women are vulnerable and highly sexualized while men take power in nakedness. In this, Barbarian is taking sexual power over AJ with her nakedness. It is satisfying for the audience to see AJ being punished in a disturbing way because of his history of sexual abuse. 

Tess escapes and goes to look for help, but the police are useless. She then decides to return to the house to save AJ. This is frustrating for the audience because we know he would never do the same for her. This is reiterated in the final moments of the movie when AJ pushes Tess off of a rooftop in order to make the Barbarian jump after her and save himself. Even when he runs to find that she is still alive, he won’t face up to it. The Barbarian jumps back to life, strangling AJ and gouging his eyes out. She tries to get Tess to return to the house, but Tess tells her she can’t go back. In a heart wrenching moment, Tess shoots the Barbarian in the chest. She walks away from the bodies as “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes plays her out in an unsettling end to a terrifying movie.