Editor's Note: The following review contains spoilers for 'Barbarian'
Barbarian has a lot of set-up. By the hour 20-minute mark I had to tell myself that perhaps not everything in this story will be explained. With only 15-20 minutes left in the film, it would be impossible for every question to be answered or every mystery to be revealed. Recent movies have somewhat trained me to prepare myself for such withholding of information. Pig never really gets to why Nicholas Cage’s character became a hermit. Nope never really explains why Gordy the chimpanzee went on a killing spree. While I appreciated both of those movies, the lack of explanations for these story points left me dissatisfied.
But I was ready for Barbarian. I was ready to appreciate whatever ending it was going to throw at me. We may not learn why this one house on Barbary lane is the only liveable space on the block, why ‘The Mother’ has super strength, how Frank ends up capturing all his victims, or what exactly is on those VHS tapes. And that’s okay. In some cases, what’s left to the imagination ends up being the scariest thing of all.
Barbarian begins with a young African American woman named Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, arriving at an Air BnB late one rainy night. Due to some scheduling mishap, Tess finds herself sharing the rental with another man named Keith, played by Bill Skarsgard of It fame. Unable to contact the property manager, they end up agreeing to share the place. The next afternoon Tess discovers a hidden corridor after accidentally locking herself in the basement. Down the corridor, there is a room with a camcorder and a dirty mattress. Panicked and still trapped in the basement, she, fortunately, escapes through a window with Keith’s help. After hearing what Tess has seen, Keith goes down to the basement to investigate. When he does not return, Tess goes down and into the underground tunnel to find Keith, only to make a startling discovery.
From there, we’re introduced to a character named AJ, played by Justin Long, driving down some sunny west coast highway. AJ is an actor whose career is on the brink of collapse due to accusations of sexual assault from a TV series co-star. As the owner of the property that Keith and Tess are staying in, he visits the site in anticipation of selling his assets to cover lawyer expenses. Soon AJ discovers the corridor in the basement and ventures in, where something horrible awaits.