After booking an AirBNB in a dilapidated Detroit neighborhood, a woman uncovers a dark secret hidden within a home. Only to find out that there are monsters, and she is not alone. And in this dark world of good vs evil, no good deed goes unpunished. Which will have you asking, who’s the real barbarian in this brilliant tale exploring various layers of moral decency.
Disclaimer: If you have not yet seen this movie, it is best enjoyed with little to no knowledge of the story. We do our best to avoid and minimize spoilers, but 2022’s Barbarian is a special case that hinges on the surprises it has in store for you.
Finding the right job is difficult. When Tess sets her sites on Detroit for her job interview, she books her stay in a nice home in a bad neighborhood. Completely unaware of the history, she arrives at her Airbnb only to find a stranger already inside. Amidst pouring rain, the stranger welcomes her inside and her journey into a dark past begins.
Detroit is a storied place that has brough many great joy and misery. A town in disrepair, the failures of the people and law enforcement are clear. As homes are rundown, and safety a constant issue. In one scene, Tess is entering the home as a transient begins yelling and running at her. She manages to get inside, but it’s clear she’s doesn’t feel safe on either side of the door.
When the moment arises for Tess to contact the police, it becomes clear to Tess that she is on her own. Alone in a strange place, she must navigate the many dangers around her and hope to find a safe way out.
Monsters Walk Among Us
From the moment we meet Tess, it’s clear that she’s fish out of water. With beautiful cinematography, we become intimate with her fear. A newcomer in a strange place, she knows someone, or something is watching. Surrounded by strangers, her good heart struggles to find trust and safety. Unfortunately, things will soon take a turn for the worst. As the mysteries she’ll uncovers give rise to new and unexpected monsters.
I want to state that while watching this movie, there are scenes that have made the audience uncomfortable enough to walk out of the theater. Since you need to see the movie to understand why, let’s just say that it’s of the gross-out variety and may leave you with a sense of disgusted disbelief.
If you’re into horror films that play with the idea of monsters, Barbarian is fantastical yet grounded at the same time. As we start with a typical creature feature, before transitioning into thriller-horror territory. What makes Barbarian truly special though is how your first and subsequent viewings will bring different perspectives on monsters. Going in the first time you’ll be shocked and surprised by what happens. On repeat viewings you’ll recognize who the monsters are. Observing small details you failed to notice before.
Am I Bad Person?
Morality is perhaps the most effective storytelling aspect at play. For example, if a monster does horrible things unaware of morality, does that still make them a monster? Afterall, every monster isn’t always aware that what they do is actually wrong. Many will then label those we misunderstand as being monsters.
Some monsters are made into who they are by design of their circumstances. Like an aggressive dog that only knows violence, it may never be safe to be around. While most possess some decency to their levels of morality, Barbarian plays with the idea that most people are rarely challenged enough to see their good or evil rise through. These morality plays of good, evil, and ignorance of evil makes the story work so well. As no good deed goes unpunished.
Who’s The Real Barbarian
When good are put in front of dangerous monsters they always do the right thing. This courage is rare yet encouraging even to the weakest willed person. In Barbarian you will be tested by gross out moments. While being thrilled by the narrative filled with clever dark, horror, thriller character exploration. In many ways, Barbarian feels like three separate short films that culminate into a strongly compelling tale of morality that is surprisingly even more enjoyable on repeat viewings.
By the time the movie is done, you’ll know who the real monsters are. As to who they are in the movie, you’ll have to see Barbarian to find out.
See the Trailer for Barbarian (2022)
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