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‘Barbarian’ unexpectedly blends comedy and humor

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It’s a dark and stormy night when documentary researcher Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) arrives in Detroit for an important job interview. Finding the Airbnb accommodation she’s rented, she realizes it’s ominously situated in a rundown neighborhood that’s filled with abandoned houses.

When the key is missing from the lockbox, Tess discovers that the dingy, dimly lit place is already occupied. Awkwardly explaining that the house was double-booked by a different service, Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgard) is not only friendly but he offers to give Tess the bedroom while he sleeps on the couch. Of course she’s suspiciously hesitant but a local convention has filled all the available hotel rooms.

While she’s asleep, the bedroom door mysteriously opens and she hears Keith moaning in fear, obviously suffering from a dreadful nightmare. Nevertheless, the next morning Tess gets up and goes to her job interview.

When she comes back to the Airbnb, she ventures into the basement, looking for toilet paper. That’s where she finds a secret door leading to hidden corridors and subterranean bedrooms that comprise this real house of horrors.

Not to reveal too much, let’s just say there are malevolent twists and turns, revolving around its former owner (Richard Brake) and current owner, a disgraced, despicably loathsome and glibly entitled Hollywood type (Justin Long).

Within its solid three-act structure, scripted by Danny Chan, Alex Lebovici, Bill Skarsgard and director Zach Cregger, it unexpectedly blends gross, brutal comedy with sleazy horror. Which is not surprising since Zach Cregger is a former member of “The Whitest Kids U’Know” sketch group. 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, claustrophobically cramped setting.

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

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Barbarian” barges in with a surprising, savage 6, playing only in theaters.

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

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