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Barbarian Is the Biggest Letdown of the Year

I was super excited for Barbarian. The trailer promised a really intriguing horror mystery, and that was more than enough to get me on board. It piqued my interest without spoiling anything, and the way I see it, that’s exactly what a trailer should do. I love going into movies without knowing what to expect, so I was basically counting down the days until I finally got to see this one.

Barbarian was written and directed by Zach Cregger, and it stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, and Matthew Patrick Davis. It’s about a woman named Tess who goes to Detroit for a job interview and rents a house there, but when she arrives, something isn’t right. The company that manages the property double booked it, so a man named Keith is already staying there. Tess tries to book a hotel room instead, but there aren’t any available, so she decides to stay the night and straighten everything out in the morning. At first, it seems like the only viable option, but she soon discovers that the house harbors a deadly secret.

The first act of Barbarian plays out almost entirely as a character drama, and it’s awesome. It starts with Tess arriving at the house, and right from the get-go, I absolutely loved her and Keith. Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård do an amazing job playing these people, so I totally believed their predicament. In fact, they’re both so good that I found myself getting angry at the property managers almost right away. I don’t usually get that swept up in a story that quickly, but these two performances are just that powerful.

Tess standing on the front porch of a house

In particular, I have to give special props to Bill Skarsgård. While Georgina Campbell is excellent, Skarsgård gets the much meatier role. When we first meet Keith, he’s very awkward, but from what I’ve seen in interviews, Bill Skarsgård is nothing like that in real life. It’s a pretty impressive transformation, and I found it completely convincing.

On top of that, at a certain point in the story, Keith changes and becomes a lot more confident and comfortable, so Skarsgård also gets to show off his range. It’s just a really great performance all around, so it almost single-handedly kept my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. I loved seeing this character no matter what he was doing, and when you add in Georgina Campbell’s great performance too, you get an amazing first act that made me think Barbarian was going to become one of my favorite movies of the year.

Then, when Barbarian starts to showcase its mystery, it gets even better. It pretty much becomes a string of WTF moments that had me wondering what the hell could possibly be going on here, and I totally ate it up. My mind was racing as I tried to think of what could be lurking inside this house, and while I was obviously able to throw out a bunch of random guesses, I had no idea which one (if any!) was right. It’s an amazing mystery that’s just as good as the characters, so I was becoming more and more confident that this would end up on my top 10 list come December.

To top it all off, once the film pulls back the curtain a bit and starts to reveal its secrets, it somehow goes to another level once again. The first act ends with a really great horror moment that literally left my jaw hanging, so I was starting to think this could actually become my new favorite movie of the year.

A man on the floor shining a flashlight and looking scared

But then Barbarian changes. I’m not going to say how, but I will say that the change completely kills all the momentum this story was building, so the film essentially has to start all over again from scratch. And not only did that kill the movie’s momentum, but it killed the whole thing for me.

To be fair, the second two acts aren’t bad. In fact, looking at them objectively, they’re probably pretty okay. They have some decent horror and a bunch of good laughs, and when Justin Long comes into the mix, he’s amazing. While you soon find out that his character is a terrible person, he’s an absolute joy to watch whenever he’s on screen. I’d even say that Long’s performance is just as good as Bill Skarsgård’s and Georgina Campbell’s, so on the whole, the acting in this film is hands down the best thing about it.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not enough to save the second two acts. As I said, they’re okay, but they never really get any better than that. The story and the horror feel pretty generic, so this part of Barbarian never even comes close to the first act. At best, I’d say it’s about average.

But coming after such a great first act, merely average is a huge letdown, and that letdown made this feel like the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, I was so disappointed with it that I actually left the theater angry. While Barbarian isn’t the worst film of 2022, it definitely gave me the worst viewing experience of the year, so I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t recommend it. Sure, it has its moments (namely, the entire first act!), but as a whole, it just doesn’t work. So if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Barbarian hits theaters on September 9.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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