Combustible Celluloid Review - Barbarian (2022), Zach Cregger, Zach Cregger, Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler, Jaymes Butler, Sophie Sörensen
Combustible Celluloid
With: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler, Jaymes Butler, Sophie Sörensen
Written by: Zach Cregger
Directed by: Zach Cregger
MPAA Rating: R for some strong violence and gore, disturbing material, language throughout and nudity
Running Time: 102
Date: 09/09/2022

Barbarian (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rental Case

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made with clear skill and confidence, the gory, creepy, topical chiller Barbarian keeps its mystery under wraps for an impressively long time, before revealing a monster that seems disappointingly ill-fitting.

Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives at an Airbnb she's rented in a run-down neighborhood in Detroit. The key is missing, and she discovers that Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there; the place has been double-booked. He invites her in, and they spend an awkward evening together, each wondering how far they can trust the other. In the morning, Tess, while searching for toilet paper, becomes locked in the basement.

She finds a secret room that suggests disturbing things went on there. Keith finds her, goes to check it out, and vanishes, deeper within the bowels of the house. Meanwhile, Hollywood hotshot AJ (Justin Long), who has just been accused of rape, is the owner of the house and travels there, hoping to sell it. But the mystery of what's going on down below goes back deeper, and darker, still.

Zach Cregger's film is laid out in chapters that seem wildly disconnected at first glance, until they snap together. The first chapter, with Tess and Keith — a setup similar to the one in Gone in the Night — mines paranoia and mistrust, especially in regards to the male-female dynamic, to an impressive degree. It's also a masterful deflection, keeping us guessing, and a commentary on the withering of America, depicting a ruined Detroit neighborhood that could have been saved if only someone had cared.

The second chapter, with AJ, discusses the #MeToo movement in an interesting, satirical way, showing a character who is, undeniably, an awful person, but also demonstrating the extensive damage an accusation can do. (There's no good side to this story.) Then, a weird flashback scene set in the 1980s features an eerie lens choice, creating a vast, stretched-out space, and dropping more clues as to what is actually going on.

But the final stretch, as characters tangle with a gross latex-suited monster that has unreasonable strength and stamina, feels like a slap in the face. It's a cheap solution to a layered and fascinating setup, a lazy borrow from films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Evil Dead II. It's hard to recommend Barbarian based on this disappointing finish, but the craftsmanship — and strong entertainment value — of the first three-quarters is hard to deny.

Movies Unlimtied