- Movie Rating -

Barbarians (2022)

| April 1, 2022

Two Thousand Twenty-Two marks the 40th anniversary of my favorite horror film, Tobe Hooper’s Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist which, to my mind, is the ultimate in home invasion thrillers.  What made it special was that there was something else buried underneath it’s roller-coaster façade – a sense of the new money-mad world being punished for stealing the land and planting our expensive trinkets on soil strewn with the bones of the past.

I thought a lot about Poltergeist while I was watching Charles Dorfman’s Barbarians, which shares the same theme of claiming indigenous homeland for financial purposes without respecting what came before, but there was a difference.  Poltergeist revealed it message without really stating it out loud – we kind of intuited what was really going on.  Barbarians states it loud and proud and, by the end, has really overexplained it until it starts to repeat itself.

As with the previous film, Barbarians also focuses on a middle-aged man who works in real estate, a smarmy, slickster named Lucas (Tom Cullen) who also is working at selling a new and expensive tract in an idyllic new community.  The place is called “Gaeta” – or “Gateway” in Gaelic.  This, we know, will come back to bite him in the butt.

Unlike Poltergeist, this is not a supernatural thriller although some allusions are made at the beginning that are neither explained or entirely necessary.  There some business involving a dying fox but it has little to nothing to do with the rest of the film.  This is not a ghost story.  The build-up reminded me a little of Jordan Peele’s Us but it’s not quite that clever.  The movie opens with Lucas’ wild video pitch but then immediately cuts to another video of him covering ook and concluding the pitch.  Subtly is apparently not in Dorfman’s repertoire.

The movie then introduces us to – get this – Adam and Eva (Iwan Rheon and Catalina Sandino Moreno) who are the first inhabitants of Gaeta and have been given a sweet deal by Lucas in exchange for services rendered.  He is the one who finds the fox in the woods that later turns up in his kitchen floor and begins to think something is up.  An internet search reveals some things about Lucas that aren’t quite copacetic and later, when Adam and Eva have dinner with Lucas and his girlfriend Chloe (Inès Spiridonov), there is tension that has nothing to do with Eva’s cooking.  Chloe and Eva bond over art, but Lucas and Adam trade tiny, barbed comments that grow into larger ones.  Lucas is the alpha-male, we surmise and Adam . . . well, it would be unfair to call him a beta-male exactly.  He’s too much of a coward for that – but, we know, the rest of the evening with wring that out of him.


As you might surmise from the trailer – or any images accompanying this film, there is a home invasion that occurs about three-quarters of the way through the film.  It is pretty effective but, like Poltergeist, it actually works better when you don’t try to explain it.  When the home is invaded by a group of guys wearing scary masks who never speak, there’s a genuine sense of dread and terror.  When the masks come off and the invasion is explained, it doesn’t work so well.  The ending of the film is kind of a letdown.  I appreciated Dorfman trying to build some characters and motivations but I think he does too much.  This story needed some trimming, some mystery, a little less reasoning about why they’re here.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Thriller