Allow me to preface this review by mentioning that I was able to have the distinct pleasure of not being exposed to literally ANYTHING about this film, other than the title, prior to sitting down in the theatre to watch the screening. That is a very rare scenario to be facing in this day and age. As I left the theatre I found myself questioning whether or not this lack of pre-exposure had any effect on the experience. Before I comment further on that, let me discuss the film itself… spoiler free, of course.
The first thing that stands out with Barbarian is how well-paced it actually is. With films of this nature, there is almost always a number of slow moments that drag a film down for short periods of time. Thankfully Barbarian manages to overcome that commonality. The first 30-35 minutes do a great job at keeping you in suspense, wondering exactly what is going on and what is going to happen. It is a rather uneventful 30-35 minutes to start, yet is still expertly crafted at establishing a tonal foundation for the craziness which is about to ensue.
The story centres around 3 characters. Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman arriving at her AirBnB rental late at night in Detroit for a job interview the next day. Keith (Bill Skarsgard), a man who has apparently already rented the same location on a different online service. AJ (Justin Long), an actor who suddenly finds himself on the verge of becoming blacklisted is forced to come back to his hometown to deal with some financial issues. These 3 strangers quickly find themselves entangled with each other in a fight for their lives within the walls of the rental property. The entire cast really does a great job with their respective roles. Georgina Campbell runs the gamut from suspicious and uncomfortable to fearing for her life with surgical precision. Bill Skarsgard is perfect as the mysterious awkward creepy X factor of the story. And, it is so good to see Justin Long back on screen doing what he does best. His ability to incite laughter from the audience while still portraying genuine fear and/or disgust is perfect for this character.
It really is difficult to offer up a review for this film without giving away the fun surprises sprinkled throughout its runtime. However, what I can say is this. At our screening there were plenty of screams, scares, laughs, jumps, “Nooooooo,” and “Don’t do it” exclamations from the audience. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy the film.
Now, regarding my lack of knowledge about the film, I do believe that coming into this screening completely blind definitely added to my being able to enjoy it so much. It has been quite a while since I was able to enjoy a film of this nature in theatres as trailers these days are often either too revealing or too heavily suggestive about any twists or surprises within the plot. After the screening of Barbarian, I decided to check out the trailers to see if they would have done the same thing in this case. Surprisingly, I found the trailers to be quite secretive while giving away nearly nothing that would ruin the enjoyment of the presentation. Also, very little advertising actually exists for Barbarian. If this was done intentionally, it was actually a brilliant move in my opinion. With the way the audience was reacting during our screening, this will be the perfect film to ride its box office wave based on word of mouth.
All of that being said, I highly recommend checking out Barbarian, in theatres on Sept 9th, 2022. If you enjoy the suspenseful thriller and/or horror genres, this film definitely won’t disappoint. If nothing else, you should be able to leave the theatre feeling satisfied… and maybe slightly warier about renting your next Airbnb.