The Pitch: On a dark and stormy night in Detroit, Tess (Georgina Campbell) shows up at her AirBnB only to find someone already staying there: sensitive, looming, but slightly disarming Keith (Bill Skarsgård). Turns out they’ve both rented the place on the same night, and there’s nowhere else to stay, so Tess decides to take Keith up on his offer to crash together. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Eat Your Heart Out, Gabriel: How do you write a review of a film that’s genuinely, truly, deeply best enjoyed blind? That’s the challenge ahead for us, dear reader, but let’s give it a shot.
The solo feature directorial debut of Zach Cregger (one of the founding members of The Whitest Kids U’Know), Barbarian shares a surprising amount of DNA with Psycho, especially in its first forty minutes or so. In this initial act, it’s a film chiefly concerned with a suspicious double-booking, the kind of thing that would result in a meet-cute if this were a different kind of movie.
Tara doesn’t trust Keith, despite his repeated entreaties and performance of nice-guy chivalry: He insists she comes in out of the rain, where “there’s lights and a lock on the door” to keep her from the rest of the run-down Detroit neighborhood that surrounds their surprisingly well-kept domicile. He even nervously waits to open up a bottle of wine until after she’s returned, just to make sure she knows he didn’t drug it.
For most of this first act, Cregger plays this dynamic like the other shoe might drop on Keith’s intentions any minute now. After all, we’ve seen this rodeo before, both as horror fans and as people fully aware of the realities of sexual assault. Hell, how would you feel sharing an AirBnB with Pennywise?