“Barbarian” Review: the Perfect Blend of Gruesome Horror and Campy Comedy


Georgina Campbell who plays Tess in “Barbarian.” Courtesy of AP Images

Annisyn Krebs-Carr, Staff writer

Horror and comedy go hand in hand in Zach Cregger’s thrilling new movie, “Barbarian.”

With the recent string of subpar horror movies that have come out, my expectations for “Barbarian” were low. But after watching it, I can confidently say that this movie surpassed every expectation I had. Unsettling, bloody, and surprisingly funny, “Barbarian” left me pleasantly surprised.

Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, shows up to her Airbnb only to find out it has been double-booked and already occupied by a man named Keith, played by Bill Skarsgård. Despite her uneasy feeling about the situation, Keith insists that Tess stay the night with him, and against her better judgment, she obliges.

Just like any other typical horror movie, I found myself rolling my eyes at how dumb Tess was. Why would you stay in an Airbnb with a man you don’t know, who quite frankly is giving serial killer vibes? But I guess it wouldn’t be a horror movie if the characters actually used their brain. Despite the lack of common sense, Campbell played Tess exceptionally well, and made her a character worth rooting for.

Tension starts to build early in the movie, not only with the presence of creepy Keith, but also just within the house itself. A feeling of uneasiness sets in as a lingering question arises. Who is the true villain? Is it creepy Keith, who Tess has grown fond of after a night together? Or is there something else lurking?

The tension only grows after Tess accidentally gets locked in the basement, the door suspiciously closing itself behind her. While downstairs, Tess decides to do some exploring, which turns out to not be a great idea. (Spoiler alert: don’t explore the creepy basement in the weird Airbnb).

In the basement’s dingy corridors, she finds a horrifying creature that resembles something like a woman, who snatches the residents temporarily staying upstairs. 

The attention to detail in this movie is something worth commending. From the creature herself; with her stringy black hair, gray color, and sharp teeth, to the detail in the set. The eeriness of the house, the grim yellow room, and the cages in the basement. There wasn’t a single aspect that wasn’t thought out. 

Despite the horrifying detail on the creature, I couldn’t help but giggle when she first appeared on the screen. It’s not that she wasn’t scary, because she was plenty scary. If I saw her in my basement I’d be full on sprinting up the stairs. But there was something about her that warranted laughter. The way she stood hunched over, or ran throughout the corridor of the basement. Or when she’d say one of her only lines in the entire movie “Ba-Ba”. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was funny, and it was something that set “Barbarian” apart from other recent horror movies. 

Despite the obvious horror in this film, putting “ Barbarian” in just the horror genre is misleading. There was a certain dynamic of horror and comedy that was present throughout the film, an aspect that was clearly intentional in the script. The subtle campy-ness in “Barbarian” is something that pleasantly surprised me, and where oftentimes it can come off cringe, was pulled off extremely well.

 The comedy aspect did not dissolve the movie’s tension in any way. In fact, it almost came as a relief in some parts. It only took a few gruesome scenes to leave me thinking, “oh my God”, while trying to piece together what just happened. A few uneasy laughs and apprehensive relief were much needed, although the relief was often short lived and followed by anxious feelings of what was to come.

It is learned later in the film that the creature downstairs’ only goal is to be a mother and to care for her babies, who are really just full grown adults snatched from upstairs (close enough). Despite her gruesome methods of trying to find and raise babies, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. Even after a gory scene of her smashing a man’s head in, I was thinking “Awh. Well she just wanted to be a mom.”

Although it might seem odd to sympathize with a weird murderous creature in the basement, this clashing of emotions was intentional, and something that the movie did extraordinarily well. Every emotion I felt, whether it was horror, sympathy, laughter, or confusion, was intentional. A feature that allows “Barbarian” to be as good as it is. 

In a movie full of shocking twists and turns, the ending did not disappoint in the least. In an area where horror movies often fall short, “Barbarian” may have had my favorite horror movie ending of the year. The final five minutes of the film had me feeling a whirlwind of emotions, before ending with a surprisingly tender final scene. The Ronettes “Be My Baby” ironically played as the credits rolled, fully embracing the movie’s campy aspect that had been present throughout the film.