Barbarian (2022) Review: Turning Your Brain Off Won’t Help

Note to self: Never take another film recommendation from Sonny Bunch.

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There’s a reason that the only film anyone is watching right now is Top Gun: Maverick and that’s because every other film in movie theaters sucks. With films like “Bros”, “Don’t Worry Darling”, and “The Woman King” coming up next, garbage movies will continue to be the trend.

The buzz has been heavy for the new horror film “Barbarian”, a film that is written and directed by Zach Cregger from “The Whitest Kids U’ Know.” Everyone and their mother is trying to get into the writing and directing side of the business via the horror genre. Horror movies are an easy starting point for novice filmmakers as the low-budget efforts allow filmmakers to do more with less.

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However, it doesn’t take much to impress critics and some films get over-praised just for being competent. “Barbarian” is a bad horror film that is being praised for it’s “social elements.”

Set in Detroit, the film begins with a young woman named Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) who arrives at an AirBnB for a job interview. Tess books a rental home in a rundown neighborhood and is surprised to find the property is already occupied by a young man named Keith (Bill Skarsgård) who booked the house with another app. Tess is forced to spend the night in the house with Keith and after some initial awkwardness, they manage to find a peaceful ground.

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The next day, Tess discovers that someone has opened her door overnight but she thinks nothing of it. When she returns from her interview, she goes downstairs to discover that there is a secret room in the basement and makes the discovery that they are not the only people on the property. Tess and Keith are in a dangerous neighborhood with far more secrets than they could ever handle.

“Barbarian” may seem like a competent horror film but this is a film that manages to get dumber the more think about it. Character induced stupidity is the gasoline that keeps the plot moving. The film expects you to believe that Tess, who is supposed to be smart, would be renting an Airbnb in a dangerous abandoned neighborhood without doing any research about the area where she is staying in.

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A simple Google Maps search would tell you this is not where you want to stay to save a few bucks. Then, the film expects you to believe that an elderly serial killer and his mutated incest baby could pull off a booking scam so nobody would know they were there. Every character in the movie makes multiple decisions that would go against any logic of a person trying to stay alive at all costs.

The poor character decisions leads to a disappointing 3rd act where the film falls apart. At the midway point, we are introduced to the character of AJ Gilbride played by Justin Long. AJ is a Hollywood actor who owns the property, but after getting #MeToo’d, he returns to Detroit to salvage any money from the home. After being accused of rape, AJ is given a shot at being a hero in the story that only asks him to be selfless. But after being given a moment of clarity, he reverts immediately to being a self absorbed prick because modern storytelling doesn’t believe in the idea of redemption.

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What makes this decision more egregious is by justifying AJ’s death, the film adds another 20 minutes of runtime that makes the entire 3rd act pointless thanks to one boneheaded decision.

The seeds of progressive storytelling are baked into the film with a protagonist who is a biracial woman career woman in a setting where every man in the movie is either stupid, evil, or dead. The last thing we need is Progressive filmmakers being inspired to make their own “social thrillers” using the Jordan Peele formula of turning movies into lectures about race, gender, and sexuality. Cregger does show a good understanding of how to create tension using disturbing imagery with solid camera work. Georgina Campbell gives a good performance and reminds you of a young Rosario Dawson.

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The “Detroit Is Scary” horror premise has been done so much better in films like “Don’t Breathe” I can’t even give this film credit for utilizing it’s environment.

“Barbarian” has the blueprint to be a good movie but too many story-related errors sinks the film from reaching its potential. Turning your brain off won’t help you enjoy this movie, you are better off watching “Top Gun: Maverick” for the 6th time this summer.





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