OPINION: ‘Barbarian:’ One of the best theater experiences I’ve had

Courtesy photo of Imdb.com

Courtesy photo of Imdb.com

When I first saw the trailer for the new movie “Barbarian,” I was dragged into the mystery of it all. The 30-second trailer I saw late one night only presented a long dark hallway and the fact that Justin Long was in the movie. Even if that’s an insignificant amount of detail to share in a trailer, it caught my eye, and when early previews came in praising “Barbarian” I knew I had to see it in theaters before spoilers found their way toward me.

This decision ended up being one of the best theater experiences I’ve had in years, and “Barbarian” is a cult classic waiting to happen.

“Barbarian” opens with Tess, played by Georgina Campbell, arriving at an Airbnb in an area repeatedly described as dangerous by everyone she interacts with. It is late, and while struggling to open the door, she discovers another person is already in the house. Tess eventually meets Keith, played by Bill Skarsgård, and they find out that two different websites ended up renting the home for the same night.

That is the setup, and it is all I want to say about the plot. Once “Barbarian” gets through the proper introductions, it becomes a movie full of as many twists and mysteries as can fit into the runtime.

“Barbarian” excels at revealing information exactly when you need it and withholding any unnecessary knowledge so as not to distract from the important details. Every piece of character development and every tidbit of information about the movie’s setting is important — I never felt as if I knew too much about the situation at hand, which made every drop of information so satisfying to discover.

The three main stars of this movie do an amazing job, especially Justin Long as AJ Gilbride. Long’s character, to put it lightly, isn’t the best person in the world. Ousted from the TV show he helped create, AJ Gilbride is quickly revealed to be a man with few redeeming qualities. He’s selfish, unable to take the blame for anything he does wrong and ultimately never learns how to be a better person despite having many opportunities to do so in the movie.

However, his role in the movie is a perfect parallel to Campbell’s role as Tess, an up-and-coming research analyst for documentaries who is about to work with her first major client. Both of these characters meet at the exact same moments in their careers in Hollywood but come from opposite ends of the corporate ladder.

These characters ultimately lay out the groundwork for many of the themes and ideas behind the movie, especially the hardship of becoming successful in Hollywood. Tess does everything she can to finally make it in the world. She travels all the way to Detroit for this opportunity to start her career, while AJ ends up in Detroit to get away from the controversy he created for himself.

Overall, this message comes through the movie with subtlety and nuance, even if some of the writing feels on the nose at times.

Written and directed by Zach Creggar of “The Whitest Kids U’ Know” fame, “Barbarian” is a movie that balances all of the best aspects of horror perfectly and effortlessly. Every twist that needs to stay hidden creeps forward with a massive sense of mystery and tension, every set piece moment works with maximum effectiveness, and multiple moments left my jaw completely open in shock.

“Barbarian” is a movie that I won’t shut up about for a long time.