Equal parts beguiling and horrific, Barbarian is best experienced without spoilers from the fans and critics who are raving about this film. The basic premise is that a woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) arrives a day early in Detroit for a big job interview. Upon arriving at her Air B&B, she finds that it’s in a very sketchy neighborhood. To further complicate matters, the house is already inhabited by a stranger named Keith (Bill Skarsgard). Keith claims to have booked it himself and invites Tess inside because of the bad reputation of the neighborhood… foreshadowing at its finest.

After investigating other housing options, Tess reluctantly decides to stay overnight with Keith and the pair seem to hit it off, despite the odd circumstances. It’s at this moment that the film begins to take flight, and boy does it soar.

Writer/director Zach Cregger (a standout of the sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids You Know) willfully plays with his captive audience while executing his vision of what a low budget horror film can accomplish. Cregger teases taking the film into well-known horror cliché territory, but quickly flips audience expectations with inventive choices.

Cregger is more than adept at delivering clever thrills and scares while maintaining a consistent electricity in every frame of this film. Barbarian is an entertaining, nerve-wracking ride that should have strong legs at the box office. Fronting most of the film’s press is actor Justin Long, who appears late in the film as one of Hollywood’s “fallen” AKA “cancelled” talents returning to his Detroit home.

Cregger weaves in a commentary on many social topics within his horror spectacle, proving that he is more than capable of crafting complex narratives amid his clever scare choices with a razor thin budget. Having shot in Bulgaria, Cregger somehow captured a dark, grim version of Detroit. It’s a distinct pleasure to highlight a rising talent like Cregger, and one wonders what he could accomplish with a Jordan-Peele-sized budget in the near future.

Letter Grade: B-

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a voting member of the Television Academy, Critics Choice Association, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (the SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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