Starring Justin Long and Bill Skarsgård, Barbarian will put you off Airbnb forever

Every time you think you have barbarian found out, it would be wise to reconsider. There’s a trapdoor you haven’t noticed yet, and it opens onto an uncharted corridor of untold depraved possibilities. (And possibly a dungeon.)

On the surface, The whitest kid you know Alum Zach Cregger’s horror directorial debut is a gently frightening modern fable: English actress Georgina Campbell (Black mirror, suspicion) plays Tess, a young woman who shows up at her Airbnb on a rainy night only to find that it has been double booked and the other guest just so happens to be Bill Skarsgård. Stranded with a stranger in the only spotless house on a seedy Detroit block, Tess prepares for a job interview, even as things go from weird to downright terrifying. If it’s about the real danger that awaits Tess, the call might actually come…you know.

About halfway through the movie, however, we hit an abrupt cut that introduces the show’s new star: Justin Long, who delivers one of his best (and most obnoxious) performances in years.

During the first act of barbarian prone to a Hitchcockian sense of foreboding, its payoff is pure mush — a B-horror-tinged twist that puts this film in a similar category to James Wan’s Malignant earlier this year. (Thanks to the underground horror element and Detroit setting, comparisons to 2016 don’t breathe wouldn’t be unfair.) This catapults the film from a capable but underwhelming chamber horror into something truly unforgettable. Still, the landing might ultimately feel a bit shaky for some.

First, however, there’s Tess – a clever woman whose actions, like so many horror characters, nonetheless often defy common sense. On the one hand, when she first shows up at the house and finds that a guy named Keith (Skarsgård) has already checked in, she makes sure to see his confirmation email before she gets too comfortable. Minutes later, she takes him at his word that everywhere else in town is booked up thanks to a convention — no inquiries, not even a quick look on Expedia at the local Marriott’s unlikely cancellation. (Come on Tess, you’re better than this!)

Tess’ actual level of cleverness may be contradictory, but Cregger manages to build a calm, informal tension around her temporary roommate. Skarsgård knows exactly how to sculpt his face to show off those chiseled features and those bulging round eyes to the full – and it doesn’t hurt that he’s perhaps still best known for playing a haunting Pennywise in Andy Muschietti It movies. Every time Keith tries to calm Tess, the anxiety mounts a little bit more – a deliberate drumbeat as we continue to wonder if it’s all played. If so, when will the other shoe drop?

Of course Tess eventually decides to explore the rental basement, and when she does, things start to get really weird. It’s also right now that Long’s character is rushing into the action in one (literally in a sports car). tour de force of flashy antitype comedy.

Long’s reputation may scream “lovable geek” — those of us over a certain age can almost certainly remember his “Apple Guy” days — but in barbarian He plays a real brute, a consummate Hollywood asshole named AJ who is about to be “cancelled”. It turns out the consequences of AJ’s actions will be very expensive, so he books a flight to Detroit where he hopes to sell a rental property – once he’s done some measurements.


A rich, powerful asshole is a much more entertaining torture victim than a well-meaning job seeker, which might explain why Long’s performance is also clueless barbariantone shift. The tension gives way to a labyrinthine house of horrors (literally and figuratively), and all pretense of restraint vanishes with a flourish.

How fitting, then, that Long’s performance feels perfectly in tune with him barbarianis Bravado. The only moments the film stumbles come when it seems to question itself. At times, Cregger’s screenplay seems to reach for a meaning that isn’t there — or hint at it with somewhat lazy tropes. (Example: At one point, Tess’s only savior happens to be the homeless man she called the police days earlier; minutes after rescuing her, this man dies a brutal death for a cheap coward.)

But those moments are rare. Even though barbarian mostly remixes ideas we’ve seen before – even Airbnb horror movies aren’t new at this point – and does it with humor and panache. (And also possibly cinema’s most unsettling baby-bottle scene.) Campbell grunts through her role with palpable persistence, Skarsgård ranges from mildly creepy to downright unnerving, and Long delivers some of his best work. It’s all so good that I’ll even overlook that unforgivable (but absolutely inevitable) needle drop at the end. Starring Justin Long and Bill Skarsgård, Barbarian will put you off Airbnb forever


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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