Spoilers don’t explore dark tunnels.

First off the bat, the good news. This is one scary movie that starts by building suspense and social anxiety so strong that I found it difficult to keep watching. It also has levels of social commentary mixed in with several layers of subversion in which you’re not quite what lies ahead. The challenge for me is to peel the layers and avoid any spoilers. It does have a few things that don’t quite work for me, but I can’t deny it does most of what it sets to accomplish.

(Credit: 20th Century Studios)

Barbarian (2022) was written and directed by Zach Cregger. Tess (Georgina Campbell) has just flown into Detroit where she’s staying at an airbnb just to find that another renter, Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying in the same house. This is just the beginning of a scary ordeal as the place has a few secrets that will eventually also involve AJ (Justin Long). How this develops is something the movie keeps to itself until later. It almost works as an anthology of horror that centers on this one house.

I’m doing a lousy job at describing the entire premise on purpose. This movie works best when you don’t know which direction it’s going. It’s almost two, if not three, movies stuck together with varying results. The second part where we meet AJ, an actor whose career might just be crashing and burning, seems both a social critique and a dark satire until it veers back into horror again. The strength is the level of subversion prevents us from guessing where the movie is headed. On the other hand, there is the risk of it losing its focus.

There is enough space for movies to experiment with subversion and narration. I’ll give it that it manages to thrill and scare you. However, it doesn’t feel like a complete story in the end. The result is rather effective but not cohesive. It’s a story with a twist that seems to change the intent to bring us back by the ending, making it feel like a short narrative that took a long detour. Most audiences won’t mind.

Recommended with reservations. I like a full story, and this one seems to be more of an anthology of several characters where the flow of the narrative veers off just to restart after a moment has gone by. That being said, it is both subversive in nature and scary enough to keep you hooked. Worth a watch, but not one I’d really repeat.

That will do for now.