Imagine your directorial debut becoming a huge sleeper hit, this is exactly what happened for Zach Cregger with Barbarian – a tense, dread filled horror. Tess (Georgina Campbell) is in Detroit for an interview and books an air bnb, alas when she arrives at her accommodation for the night it is double booked. The other guest is Keith (Bill Skarsgård), and the red flags and feelings of trepidation are apparent from the start. Tess and Keith’s meeting is fraught with trouble and, rather delightfully, initially plays out like a rom com – with two people in an unlikely situation hitting it off. Alas this fantasy turns into a nightmare, as things get increasingly sinister and disturbing.
Bill Skarsgård and Georgina Campbell both do very good turns as the unfortunate double bookers, with the latter stepping up to the plate as the determined but scared witless lead Tess. In the dark and claustrophobic surroundings of the house, she is the character you really end up rooting for. The selfish, tone deaf AJ – whose story I won’t spoil – turns up midway and is excellently played by Justin Long. They all make stupid, shout at the screen, decisions though, but hey it would be a pretty boring horror if they didn’t.
Zach Cregger’s debut is a tense, anxiety ridden horror with surprising twists and turns and even some laughs – with the deserted streets of Detroit and the creepy music deftly matching the tone. Cregger adeptly cranks up the sense of unease and the violence – things get crushed, ripped off and battered with visceral brutality. A personal highlight being when someone is beaten to death with their own arms.