This article contains spoilers for Barbarian (2022).
Barbarian is one of the most unpredictable films of the year. From the moment protagonist, Tess (Georgina Campbell), arrives at her Airbnb rental home in the opening scene of the film, Barbarian is determined to push his characters into uncertain territory. But once Tess discovers the hidden entrance to an underground tunnel in the basement of her rental house, Barbarian literally throws viewers in at the deep end. Just minutes later, Tess watches her accidental roommate, Keith (Bill Skarsgård), get his head smashed in by a gigantic monstrous woman known only as The Mother (Matthew Patrick Davis).
Thanks to a helpful flashback that comes at the end of the film’s second act, we learn that the house Keith and Tess rented was once owned by Frank (Richard Brake), a kidnapper and rapist who uses a secret network of tunnels under his house. built. We later find out that Frank locked up the women he kidnapped in the tunnels, and that he raped and tortured not only them, but all the children born after that.
This horrific, stomach-churning cycle eventually spawned The Mother, a mutated woman who was born and raised in Frank’s tunnels and spent years searching for a “baby” to raise as her own. Unfortunately for Tess, she’s just the kind of “baby” the mom was looking for.
Tess spends weeks underground before having a sudden chance to escape when AJ Gilbride (Justin Long), the narcissistic actor who owns Frank’s former home, distracts The Mother long enough for her to force her way out of the tunnels of the House. While Tess is away, AJ discovers the underground “bedroom” where an elderly Frank has taken up residence. He unknowingly informs Frank that the police will soon be crawling through the tunnels of the house, prompting Frank to shoot himself to avoid any form of justice. Equipped with Frank’s gun, AJ is reunited with Tess and the pair escape from the house.
After accidentally shooting Tess in the stomach, AJ says he’ll get her to the hospital. Right now, his proclamation must feel like AJ’s attempt to try and rectify some of his past mistakes, namely the sexual assault he committed against one of his former co-stars. However, AJ’s moment of redemption is quickly erased when The Mother catches up with them again.
In response, AJ throws Tess, the mother’s chosen “baby,” off the top of a water tower to save herself. However, when both Tess and The Mother survive their fall, AJ’s eyes are immediately gouged out by The Mother, who in turn is shot by a bleeding Tess.
Barbarian then ends with Tess hobbling his way through the streets of Detroit as “Be My Baby” plays the end credits. It’s an appropriately weird, violent way to Barbarian, itself a strange and violent film, to end. But like all great horror movies, Barbarian justifies Tess’ survival. Unlike AJ, who was motivated only by his own narcissism, Tess survives because she’s able to empathize with The Mother, allowing her to respond appropriately to each of the increasingly weird situations she finds herself in. Barbarian.
For a movie so much about exploring the darkness that lies beneath the surface of so many places and people, it makes sense that Barbarian ends not with AJ but with Tess, the most empathetic character, stumbling back to civilization just as the sun is finally starting to rise again.
Barbarian is now in cinemas.