‘Barbarian’ unexpectedly mixes comedy and humor

It’s a dark and stormy night when documentary filmmaker Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) arrives in Detroit for an important job interview. Upon finding the Airbnb place she rented, she realizes it is ominously located in a run-down neighborhood full of abandoned houses.

When the key is missing from the safe, Tess discovers that the dark, dimly lit place is already occupied. Awkwardly explaining that the house has been double-booked by a different service, Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgard) is not only friendly, he offers to give Tess the room while he sleeps on the couch. Sure, she’s oddly hesitant, but a local convention has filled every available hotel room.

As she sleeps, the bedroom door mysteriously opens and she hears Keith moaning in fear, obviously suffering from a terrible nightmare. Nevertheless, the next morning, Tess gets up and goes to her job interview.

When she returns to the Airbnb, she ventures into the basement, looking for toilet paper. It is there that she finds a secret door leading to hidden corridors and underground chambers that make up this veritable house of horrors.

Not to give too much away, let’s just say there are some malicious twists, revolving around its former owner (Richard Brake) and current owner, a disgraced, despicably repulsive, and casually titled Hollywood guy (Justin Long).

In its solid three-act structure, scripted by Danny Chan, Alex Lebovici, Bill Skarsgard and director Zach Cregger, it unexpectedly mixes crude, brutal comedy with sordid horror. Which isn’t surprising since Zach Cregger is a former member of the sketch group “The Whitest Kids U’Know.” As a result, there are allusions to white flight, #MeToo and toxic masculinity.

Credit goes to cinematographer Zach Kuperstein who makes the most of the creepy, cramped claustrophobic setting.

FYI: The title “Barbarian” refers to a cruel, primitive, and dangerously uncivilized person.

On the Granger gauge from 1 to 10, “Barbarian” bursts in with a surprising and wild 6, played only in theaters.

Susan Granger has been a television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for over 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in films with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.