Mother, Tell Your Children Not to Walk My Way
Why haven’t people learned not to go into a creepy basement?
You want to know if a movie is scary or not? People stop eating their movie snacks because the anxiety is so high that shoveling popcorn or candy in their mouths is impossible. That’s how I could tell that everyone in the theater, myself and my bff included, were on high alert for a majority of the film Barbarian. At one point during a tense scene, my bff leaned over and whispered, “I hate you for dragging me to see this!” This was not because the movie was tanking, but because we were both paralyzed with fear from the first moments up until the end of the film. She even asked that I text her once I was safely inside my apartment after we parted ways after the movie.
Without giving too much away, Tess, an out-of-towner, played by Georgina Campbell, checks into an Airbnb late one stormy night in a rundown section of Detroit, MI. She doesn’t know how bad the neighborhood is because of the time of day and weather. When she tries to enter the house, she comes face-to-face with a handsome stranger, Keith, portrayed by Bill Skarsgard, who is also staying at the same rental. Needless to say, the house was double booked and these two characters quickly find themselves in a scenario that is almost unimaginable.
Besides Tess and Keith, there is AJ, played by Justin Long. I was excited to see that Long was going to be in the film because I’m a fan of his work. He’s been in tons of movies and mostly plays the nice guy or the romantic interest, but his character in Barbarian is completely repugnant. It was awesome to see him fill a different role because it’s totally out of character for him. Although AJ is a total asshole, he did offer a little bit of comedic relief in between all the petrifying scenes, which was necessary for the audience in order to give them a little bit of a break from being horrified.
Barbarian takes place in an abandoned section of a suburb of Detroit. I think most Americans are aware that there are parts of Michigan that have become ghost towns due to the fact that many of the industries once housed there have left for different countries. Choosing this area as a setting for this horror film was ingenious because the characters are in a totally desolate area that not even the cops want to visit. There is a feeling of an apocalyptic afterlife in making the movie take place there.
The house and its location, of course, provides an unsettling backdrop, but it’s what lives in the house that supplies the horror for this film. The first glimpse the audience gets of the actual being living in the house’s secret basement is shocking and revolting, to say the least. Then, to learn what this thing does to its victims adds an element of pure disgust. The entire audience was cringing and gasping when we watched these acts unfold; it still makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about. But the thing, aka “The Mother”, is a product of her own trauma and sad upbringing, which evoked a little bit of sympathy for it in the end. I know it sounds fucked up, but once the whole story unfolds, it’s hard not to see that The Mother didn’t really know anything else or better.
Even though the movie is excellently made, there’s one thing that irked me about Barbarian and that’s that I wish they had explored the flashback/origin story a little bit more. The audience sees a very short part of the film where we learn about the original inhabitant(s) of the house, what the neighborhood looked like in its heyday, and an intentionally vague understanding of the nefarious and heinous crimes that took place in the house during that time, which contributes to what is going on in it during the present day. I would have liked to have gotten a little more history or information about this time; it was a missed opportunity that would have been interesting to see.
Other than my one gripe, I would highly recommend this movie to anyone that is a fan of horror. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I left the theater feeling massively creeped out; I even checked my car’s backseat before getting in because of how freaked out I was. Barbarian is a chilling movie, and one that would be best seen in theaters to get the full effect of it. Seeing as how it’s Spooky Season, going to the movies to see this film would be an awesome way to get some scares in for the holiday.