REVIEW: Barbarian (2022)

dir. Zach Cregger

Late one night Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives at her Detroit Air BnB. She’s tired after a long drive and just wants to crash: but with the keys missing from the lockbox, the host not picking up and a rain storm rolling in the prospect of a good night’s sleep is off the menu. Worse still someone appears to be inside the property already, so when Keith (Bill Skarsgård) opens the door – claiming he’s also booked it through a different website – Tess is faced with a dilemma: try and find somewhere else to sleep, or take a chance on someone who is – or appears to be – an amicable stranger.

To say more would risk ruining the labyrinthine twists of Zach Cregger’s latest (his first feature following the death of long-term collaborator Trevor Moore). However what can be said is the set-up quickly establishes themes of male dangerousness and the potential threats that exist for women in everyday life, realities which run through all that follows. In this Campbell and Skarsgård are excellent: she making smart decisions, eschewing typical tropes of dumb protagonists who put themselves in harm’s way; he polite and likeable, but with just enough uncertainty swimming beneath the charm to hint that something may – or may not – be off.

It’s no spoiler to say that things do indeed awry, though how exactly is all part of the ride. And what a ride it is, events progressively spiralling to some truly unhinged depths. The film feels genuinely unsafe, unwilling to conform to audience expectations and showing an almost total disregard for structure, tone or convention. Some may find the whiplash gear shifts disconcerting, but that’s all part of the point: just as Tess must decide whether to enter that Air BnB with Keith – a woman deciding to trust a man – we have no idea what we’re getting into, or what perils may lie within.

Some movies rip up the rulebook: this one sets it on fire and burns down the house. Unnerving, wild and – yes – barbaric, go in knowing nothing and pray you get out alive.

© Tim Coleman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Barbarian is out in the US from Friday 9th September. UK release tbc. Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming spoiler special on the Moving Pictures podcast.

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