Barbarian (2022): Convention Be Damned

Wilmer Acosta-Florez
3 min readSep 27, 2022

“Definitively better than the sum of its parts,” is the most salient and succinct way of describing BARBARIAN. There’s nothing on paper that can do A24’s latest proper justice, nor even begin to describe the exhilaration from those lucky to have experienced it in theaters. I struggle, even now, to conjure just the right words, for fear of pulling back the veil, the very object that’s defined the film’s success in times of great uncertainty in theatrical distribution. Leave it to the myriad hopeful who’ve supported BARBARIAN in droves — be thankful that word of mouth still counts for something.

Director Zach Cregger and company dole out a series of deliciously stupefying revelations, twists, and turns all shooting towards a conclusion that’s both inevitable yet totally fresh. Weighted, satisfying, and most importantly, modern. Indeed, the film’s premise of the “Airbnb from hell” feels like something that was conjured up in a millennial daydream.

For the sake of concealing BARBARIAN’S various delights, I’ll default to it’s merits on the macro-level. While on a job hunt in Detroit, a young woman rents a house in a seemingly abandoned neighboring town. Once at the door she discovers that the house is occupied by another tenant. It would appear that the house has been double-booked, on that creaky, rainy night somewhere in the dark fringes of Detroit.

Barbarian Trailer

And, that’s it! There’s your primer heading into BARBARIAN.

The man and woman in question are portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, and Georgina Campbell, respectively. Skarsgård is no stranger to horror, having had a crack at IT’S Pennywise, the dancing clown. Georgina Campbell is a standout, having worked on horror-adjacent projects in T.V land ,where the young actor made her bones.

One look at the trailer will lead you to conjure up your own questions and perfunctory conclusions. Campbell’s obviously our lead, but who is she? Why is Skarsgård’s character so accommodating towards a woman he’s never met, does he have ulterior motives? Why did Campbell’s character choose this house, in the middle of nowhere?

The film follows all the troupes of a horror-house mystery. Doors open and close at will; the hollow echoes of creaky footsteps permeate the premises; rain thunders on for all of perpetuity. Cregger knows his audience, thoroughly. Even baits them by chucking red meat here and there almost like comfort food.

In his reviews, Roger Ebert was always fond of saying “It’s not what a movie is about, but how it’s about.” The subsequent twists and turns that proceed BARBARIAN’S opening chapter are the equivalent to whiplash. You’re thrown off, baffled, left questioning the proceeding character dynamics, even left questioning your own rush to judgement.

And yet, part of BARBARIAN’S success lies in its sleek machinations. Its good at veiling the fact that nothing that transpires within its 100 minute runtime is genuinely new. It’s an incredibly savvy film. Man, wouldn’t it be great if all horror as creative as this? All from the banal premise of the airbnb from hell?

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Wilmer Acosta-Florez

Writer with knowledge of film and film culture. Just as excited for the next big release as anyone else. Let's talk?