Traveling to Detroit for a job interview, a young woman books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.
What We Thought:
Barbarian is the latest film that is tough to review because the issues I have with it are spoilers. I’ll try my best not to give anything away, but I can definitely say this, if you think the trailer gives away the whole movie, you are wrong, very, very wrong.
It opens with a young woman (Georgina Campbell) renting an Airbnb in Detroit because she’s there for a job interview. Unfortunately there is someone (Bill Skarsgård) already in the house. Both of them have actual reservations and despite knowing it’s not the best situation in the world, she decides to stay there because all the hotels are booked and it’s a sketchy neighborhood. Right then and there you know these characters are going to make bad decisions throughout the movie.
I understand this is a movie, but why do some films act like the characters in them have never seen a movie especially horror flicks before? She’s a young, very attractive woman and she thinks “I can trust this stranger because I’ve clearly never watched a horror movie before”. I wish I had seen the film with a crowd because I know the crowd would have laughed and talked back to the screen when she decides to stay. Of course bad things happen, but not necessarily in the way you expect. I will give the film credit for going in a different route. Yes that route is still a horror trope, but it’s not the one you predict.
At this point I was into it. Nice little surprise, action is picking up, bring it. Oh no. There is a huge tonal shift in the movie. Instead of demolished Detroit you’re now in sunny Los Angeles and introduced to Justin Long’s character. For some reason they give his character a “timely” substory that serves absolutely no purpose to the film. I guess they want you to know he’s a jerk and eventually root against him, but you throw that huge of a negative aspect on him? It’s completely unnecessary and to me doesn’t pay off. He becomes part of the main story and you can root against him pretty easily by having him yelling at the Airbnb manager over the phone or just watching his character in general.
Another huge tonal shift as the film goes back to Detroit with Long’s character. Despite his character being an actor, this guy clearly doesn’t watch movies either because he does the exact opposite of what normal people who watch horror movies would do. The film picks up steam again and brings back the creepiness and jumpscares. It then jumps into a backstory for yet another shift in tone then back to current day. It ends pretty well, but somewhere in there is a better movie if it cuts some substories and didn’t have huge shifts that make it almost feel like an anthology film.
If The Black Phone hadn’t come out earlier this year I might have liked Barbarian more. The Black Phone does a similar story, but does it better. I wanted to like Barbarian because it does have a lot of pros. The lead actress is very good. The first twist is pretty good and most of the opening is a red herring. The pacing early on is good as well. But then when it jumps around it falls flat for me. There is too much unexplained like how both original people got booked in the first place. Long’s substory doesn’t pay off. There are more, but they are spoilers. I do think the film will make some money because there hasn’t been anything new the general movie going audience might want to see at the theater in a while. Plus it’s now September and people are ready to jump into Spooky Season so horror tends to do well this time of year.