An Airbnb from hell
There is something inherently scary about moving into a new place, especially if people have lived in it before, and it comes with not just memories but with “history”. That is the premise of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and horror classics like The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, and Insidious. The advent of Airbnb gives horror filmmakers an opportunity to put a modern twist on an old trope. The internet is full of real-life Airbnb horrors: spy cameras, secret rooms, and strange hosts. Writer and director Zach Cregger taps into that fear and then pours his own nightmare fuel into it with the film Barbarian from 20th Century Studios.
In Barbarian, Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman in town for a job interview, arrives at her Airbnb rental only to discover that the house has been double-booked and another guest Keith (Bill Skarsgård) is already staying there. When Keith suggests, “Why don’t you just crash here,” a reluctant and put-out Tess decides to stay the night. There is zero chance of a good night’s sleep. Tess awakes to find her bedroom door open. She discovers a dark underground dwelling where she finds fellow guest Keith creepily crawling towards her, screaming “Help me!”
How did Keith, the guy who opened the door to Tess, end up in the basement? Is he a victim used to lure other guests in? Or will he turn out to be the host? The trailer keeps things mysterious but makes its promise stark and clear: Barbarian looks like our worst Airbnb nightmare.
Here's what you need to know about the terrifying new film Barbarian.
Barbarian was initially scheduled for an August 31, 2022 theatrical release, but 20th Century Studios and New Regency ended up pushing it back a few weeks to September 9. No reason was cited for the move, but early September is a favored date for horror releases. Hit films like The Nun, The Visit, Insidious Chapter 2, and the IT films were all released in early September to tremendous success.
20th Century Studios released the official trailer for Barbarian on June 23, 2022.
The full trailer follows Tess (Campbell), lugging her baggage and backpack in a thunderstorm, as she arrives at her Airbnb rental home. To her consternation, the host does not leave the keys for her and when she rings the doorbell, another guest Keith (Skarsgård) opens the door, saying that he booked the place a month ago. When a frustrated Tess asks what she’s supposed to do, a normal-looking Keith suggests, “Why don’t you come inside? And we’ll call these idiots.”
Figuring that they’re both the victims of double-booking and that they sort things out in the morning, Tess agrees to stay the night, with some prodding from Keith: “I don’t know if you got a great look at this neighborhood, but I don’t think you should be out there by yourself.”
Awakened by her door creaking open and loud, running footsteps, Tess goes down to the basement where she finds a mysterious rope sticking out of a wall. When she pulls the rope, it opens a door that leads to an underground room with a cot and a video camera as well as a dark corridor where she glimpses her fellow guest Keith crawling towards her. And Keith is not the only apparent victim as others are revealed, notably one played by Justin Long.
A clue to their imprisonment is the voice of a TV Narrator implying some sort of behavioral modification: “This process might seem overwhelming. But with a little practice, it can soon become a pleasurable experience. This is perfectly natural.”
An ominous warning reads: “Some stay for a night. Some stay for a week. Some never leave.” Words you’ll never expect from an Airbnb posting.
On top of the harrowing visuals, the trailer flaunts the pedigree of its producer who was among the producers of horror hits It, The Grudge, and The Ring.
20th Century Studios also released a clip showing Tess in a dimly lit basement where she discovers a mysterious rope attached to a wall. Tugging the rope opens a door leading to a dark, secret room. Tess, portrayed in both trailers as a relatable and sensible woman caught in bizarre circumstances, reacts to the situation by simply saying: “Nope."
English actress Georgina Campbell plays the lead role, Tess. Campbell previously starred in the Black Mirror episode "Hang the DJ," the Apple TV+ series Suspicion, the horror comedy All My Friends Hate Me, Guy Ritchie's fantasy epic King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the Superman prequel series Krypton. She won the 2015 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for Murdered By My Boyfriend at 22.
Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård is most known for playing the iconic horror movie villain Pennywise the Dancing Clown in IT and IT Chapter Two. Outside the IT films, Skarsgård has built up quite a career for himself, he has also starred in films and shows like Hemlock Grove, Allegiant, Atomic Blonde, Assassination Nation, Villains, Castle Rock, Nine Days, and The Devil All The Time. He also had minor roles in the superhero movies Deadpool 2 and Eternals, where he played Zeitgeist and Kro respectively. He returns to the horror genre by playing Keith in Barbarian. Skarsgård has several high-profile projects on the horizon including sharing the screen with Keanu Reeves in the highly anticipated sequel John Wick: Chapter 4, headlining the dystopian action flick Boy Kills World, and will star in the long-delayed reboot of The Crow.
Justin Long is the other major known name in the Barbarian cast. Long has starred in countless films across all genres from Sam Raimi’s horror hit Drag Me To Hell and the hit sports comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
Barbarian is written and directed by Zach Cregger, a comedian, actor, and director known for being one of the co-creators and stars of the cult sketch-comedy show The Whitest Kids U'Know. Cregger previously directed episodes of the sketch comedy series as well as the comedy film Miss March.
Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Yariv Milchan, Raphael Margules, and J.D. Lifshitz are all producers, with Skarsgård also serving as an executive producer. Roy Lee is one of the producers behind horror classics It, The Grudge, and The Ring.
The official plot synopsis from 20th Century Studios reads:
A young woman traveling to Detroit for a job interview books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked, and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.
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