Barbarian and the rise of the Airbnb horror movie | Digital Trends (2023)

I am someone who still likes Airbnb. I recently embarked on my first holiday in three years — a two-week European tour — and I booked Airbnbs for three out of four destinations. Unlike many people, who have no shortage of horror stories about their less-than-charming stays at questionable apartments with dubious hosts, I’ve had mostly positive experiences in my years of using Airbnb. And yet, I understand the trepidation that comes with the service. I’ll never forget one of my first Airbnb bookings was an apartment in Florence, Italy, where my sister and I constantly felt watched throughout the night. As if there was someone or, more disturbingly, something surveying us, lurking from the shadows, making us feel uncomfortable. Uninvited.

Contents

  • Their place, their rules
  • The host from hell
  • The secrets within
  • A new kind of nightmare

The once-groundbreaking company is no longer at the height of its powers, but Airbnb remains very much present in the modern vacation landscape. It might not be the go-to choice for travelers looking to have an actual native experience at a given place, but it’s still a solid option for people on a budget or those wanting to experience a more down-to-earth holiday. However, Airbnb has experienced a recent surge in a place few expected to see it: the horror genre.

Horror is thriving in modern cinema. Perhaps now more than ever, the venerable genre is pushing its boundaries, exploring new themes that push it to evolve past its initial conception. Horror is ever-changing, a genre driven by human curiosity. It has long been a way for directors and writers to study the depths of the human psyche, forcing us to face demons we would rather ignore out of fear of what we might discover. It makes sense that it would be an early adapter of social trends other genres would resist exploring, let alone embracing. Horror films in the past decade have examined everything from the accelerated rise of technology to our increased dependency on it. Most interestingly, horror has taken upon itself to comment on how we relate to each other and experience different things in an increasingly hectic world. Thus, the rise of the Airbnb horror film happened.

Their place, their rules

Barbarian and the rise of the Airbnb horror movie | Digital Trends (1)

At first glance, it’s easy to understand the appeal of an Airbnb horror film. You’re living in a stranger’s home, willingly putting yourself inside someone else’s environment. Hotels were already a prime source for horror settings — films likeThe Shiningand1408 (both of which were adaptations of stories by Stephen King, who was on to something) proved how appropriate the hotel business was for the horror genre. However, Airbnb ups the ante and increases the tension. Unlike a hotel, where you’re among other visitors, thus creating a faux sense of belonging, Airbnb alienates you from them and throws you into the local environment. When staying in an Airbnb, you’re the ultimate fish out of water.

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In hindsight, it’s surprising that it took so long for the horror genre to embrace Airbnb, considering the company rose to prominence during the early 2010s. Staying in an Airbnb could make you the star of your own Rosemary’s Baby. To some, it might sound like a challenge; to others, it would seem like the ultimate nightmare. However, like the best horror films, it’s a compelling and ultimately irresistible premise.

Entering a stranger’s property means you are in their territory. This might include suspicious rules, elaborate and exclusive codes, forbidden areas, and questionable security measures. Hotels have cameras, but there are limits to where they can be;, while an Airbnb might have other rules, be it the owner’s or even those of previous guests. The 2020 film The Rental toys with this premise, using surprise security cameras to create conflict between the guests and others. Taking advantage of our common perception of Airbnb, The Rental subverts audiences’ expectations about who the real enemy is.

The Airbnb horror poses a question that the genre has long asked its viewers: Why would you willingly put yourself in a position of potential danger? There are security measures in real life that make these lodgings a viable option for tourists, but those boundaries disappear in the horror genre, paving the way for a nightmare where the protagonist bring about their own demise. By exaggerating the hazards of a rental, the Airbnb horror genre poses a crucial question: how many red flags are we willing to accept when in someone else’s home? The answer is, surprisingly, a lot.

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The host from hell

Barbarian and the rise of the Airbnb horror movie | Digital Trends (2)

A great host is crucial for an Airbnb’s success. You might not want to rent a place with few or negative reviews; seeing the “Superhost” card besidea potential lodging increases confidence levels. Yet, this mysterious figure can be the ultimate enemy, at least in horror movies. Who else has more power than the host? They control everything, from the initial access to the security codes; they set the rules and place the boundaries or lack thereof. In horror terms, the host might as well be the boogeyman.

Take 2019’s A Perfect Host, about a group of friends who rent an isolated cabin and become entangled with the place’s owner, a bodybuilder with suspicious and potentially nefarious intentions. The 2021 film Superhost follows two YouTubers who book a rental from an eager woman willing to do everything for a four-star review. Both films exploit the trope of the host as an untrustworthy figure. By enhancing their negative qualities, they create an antagonist unique to the Airbnb horror subgenre.

The host can be anything from an obsessive psychopath, à la Norman Bates, to a Jigsaw-like game master. The point is for them to flip the script and provide the terrors. Unlike a run-of-the-mill killer terrorizing unsuspecting teenagers, the host has control over the situation by literally owning the setting. Like a twisted version of Home Alone‘s Kevin McCallister, the evil host is the ultimate hunter, stalking the vulnerable prey. The premise writes itself, and it wouldn’t be surprising that more horror films with evil hosts at their center come out in the near future. The evil host opens the door for countless opportunities, and the horror genre is nothing if not experimental.

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The secrets within

Barbarian and the rise of the Airbnb horror movie | Digital Trends (3)

Perhaps the scariest part of an Airbnb is the lack of familiarity with the surroundings. A hotel room is just that:a room. It might have a kitchenette or a living area, but it’s still somewhat confined, limiting the options for exploring. On the other hand, an Airbnb rental comes with secrets of its own, particularly when talking about large properties like apartments or cabins.

Barbarian, one of 2022’s best horror films, understands this fear and uses it in its favor. It not only features one of the most genuinely disturbing villains in modern horror, but also employs its setting and unique characteristics to their fullest. Barbarian knows we fear what we do not know, and what’s scarier than what lurks beneath? Similarly, 2020’sYou Should Have Left uses its setting — an isolated rental home — to tell an old-fashioned story about hell on earth. Curses within homes are a favorite narrative for horror films, but the Airbnb home has an extra layer of discomfort; this isn’t your home, and it will never be your home. Nothing is forcing you to stay within those walls but yourself. In a way, you might be the true antagonist of the Airbnb horror.

BARBARIAN | Official Clip | In Theaters September 9

Houses have histories and secrets lurking beneath every carpet and behind every wall. But who wants to know them all? If the horror genre has taught us anything it’s that nothing good comes out of looking into the dark room from which a conspicuous sound is heard. When it comes to Airbnbs, the less we know, the better. The words “don’t go in there” have never rung more true.

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A new kind of nightmare

Barbarian and the rise of the Airbnb horror movie | Digital Trends (4)

As Airbnb falls out of fashion, we must wonder: is the Airbnb horror film dying before it even begins to live properly? Is Barbarian the last hurrah of a subgenre that never quite took off? Unlikely. Horror has a way of keeping places relevant by claiming them as their own; motels have largely fallen out of use, yet they remain a popular setting for road films and hitchhiker nightmares. Sororities aren’t nearly half as relevant as they were in the latter part of the 20th century, yet, if a slasher film taking place in a sorority came out tomorrow, we would have no problem believing it.

Moreover, even if Airbnb disappears in the next decade, it will remain a landmark of a particular time and place, summarizing the experimental and early-adopter vibe of the 2010s. Hollywood loves to look to the past for inspiration, especially when it comes to horror. Nightmarish Airbnbs of the 2010s might substitute rural farmhouses of the ’70s as horror’s new go-to location.

You Should Have Left - Official Trailer (HD)

Still, chances are the Airbnb horror film is here to stay. It is unique and compelling, allowing a wide array of stories to be told within its confines. Rentals, especially isolated ones, carry considerable baggage from previous landlords and guests, creating a chaotic and potentially deadly collage of experiences that make them ideal locations for a terror flick. The horror genre lives and dies with our fear of the unknown, the dangers of uncharted territory; what’s more mysterious than a stranger’s place? There’s a morbid appeal in entering someone else’s domain, a guilty sense of curiosity that drives us to know more about our surroundings. But curiosity killed the cat, and the horror genre proves it.

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If anything will kill the Airbnb film, it’s cinema’s own interest in it. But we’re in 2022, and horror stories about hotels remain as popular as they were when Hitchcock made Psycho; if those narratives survived to this day, so can the Airbnb horror. So here’s to the rising subgenre of horror that no one saw coming. May Airbnbs reign long and prosper alongside haunted manors, old hotels, ghost towns, and dilapidated manors as the locations for our communal nightmares.

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FAQs

How scary is Barbarian? ›

Parents need to know that Barbarian is a dark, extremely creepy/gory horror movie (with satirical elements) about a sinister house in Detroit. It's skillfully made and entertaining but saddled with a disappointing monster.

What is Barbarian movie summary? ›

Where can i stream Barbarian? ›

Stream “Barbarian” on HBO Max starting Oct. 25 using the link below.

Is Barbarian a good movie? ›

a fresh, original, surprising and subversive genre treat and easily the best horror flick of 2022 so far. October 19, 2022 | Rating: 18/20 | Full Review…

Does Barbarian have a end credit? ›

We can confirm that there is NOT an end credits scene after Barbarian, so feel free to leave the theater when the credits start to roll.

Why is it called Barbarian movie? ›

The closest utterance of the title within the film comes in the form of the setting. The movie primarily takes place on Barbary Street—a fictional, rundown road in the Detroit ghetto. Barbarian does make thematic use of its setting, offering subtle commentary on Detroit's economic and cultural abandonment.

What happens in the end of Barbarian? ›

In a final moment of tenderness, the Mother signals a kiss to Tess and calls her "baby" before accepting her death. Tess doesn't survive because of a trope, Tess survives because of the centuries of resilience women have had to learn to continue surviving in this world.

Who is the killer in Barbarian? ›

The killer is The Mother. The marketing for this film does an excellent job of keeping the premise vague. Tess comes across Keith in her Airbnb, and he invites her to stay the night. While he comes across as kind to her, it is hard to trust him fully.

Whats the twist in Barbarian? ›

When AJ goes to check on the two, it turns out the fall wasn't fatal for either of them, with the woman springing to life to kill AJ, before Tess manages to get the gun AJ had to kill her attack definitively.

How long is Barbarian? ›

How many barbarians episodes are there? ›

Is the movie Barbarian on Netflix? ›

Is Barbarian available on Netflix? So many excellent titles make their way to the streamer, and it's hard to keep track of all the options readily available. But when it comes to Barbarian, fans should know the film is not available on Netflix. Instead, the movie will head to HBO first after its theatrical run.

How it will end movie? ›

How It Ends is a 2018 American action thriller film directed by David M. Rosenthal and written by Brooks McLaren. The film stars Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Grace Dove, Nicole Ari Parker, Kat Graham, and Mark O'Brien. The film was released on July 13, 2018 by Netflix.

Does Barbarian have jump scares? ›

“Barbarian” has its fair share of effective jump scares, but the movie's humor proves to be both unexpected and surprising. Cregger's background is in comedy, and he subtly works in laughs that break up the tension.

What does the mother look like in Barbarian? ›

The Mother is a severely deformed woman, warped by the decades of parent-child incest between Frank and his lineage. Her body is frail, her face is malformed, and her hair is long and raggedy.

Does Tess survive in Barbarian? ›

Tess ultimately shoots the Mother and survives the terrifying ordeal. The ending to Barbarian is unexpected, with the plot itself not following traditional avenues of storytelling to keep viewers guessing.

Is Barbarian based on a true story? ›

It certainly is. Barbarians is based on the real Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Much like in the series, this pivotal battle happened under the cover of night when an alliance of Germanic tribes targeted the Roman forces that oppressed them. They were able to take out three Roman legions in the fight.

Where is Barbarian 2022 located? ›

Tess Marshall books a remote home in a rundown neighborhood while staying in Detroit for a job interview. She is surprised to find the house is already occupied by a young man named Keith, who rented the property through a different app.

Who is the monster in Barbarian? ›

Actor Matthew Patrick Davis was flying blind when he signed on to play the monstrous Mother in 20th Century Studios' horror hit, “Barbarian.” “There are usually renderings that you can see, but I was not shown anything,” he explained, having auditioned for the role over Zoom.

What is the movie Barbarian based on? ›

However, Cregger has provided a hint by revealing that Barbarian is based on a thought he had after reading a book called The Gift of Fear, a self-help book written by a security consultant named Gavin de Becker.

What happens to Keith in Barbarian? ›

Before they can run, a horrifying naked humanoid monstrosity, “The Mother” (Matthew Patrick Davis), appears and smashes Keith's head until he is dead before she roars at Tess.

Does Barbarian have Jumpscares? ›

“Barbarian” has its fair share of effective jump scares, but the movie's humor proves to be both unexpected and surprising. Cregger's background is in comedy, and he subtly works in laughs that break up the tension.

Is Barbarian a horror comedy? ›

'Barbarian' Takes Viewers on a Wild Roller Coaster of Horror and Comedy It's not often that a story makes the audience laugh and cry at the same time. But director Zach Cregger—known for comedy films such as 2009's Miss March—has created a narrative that does just that. And it's a craft that he does at a high level.

Is Barbarian movie funny? ›

Already being compared to last year's "Malignant," it's an oddball September release with minimal marketing, terrifying atmospheric horror, and most importantly, a great sense of humor to tie it all together. In fact, it has one of the funniest scenes of any movie released in 2022.

Is Barbarian a monster movie? ›

Barbarian is a 2022 American horror film written and directed by Zach Cregger and starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long. Arnon Milchan, Roy Lee, Raphael Margules, and J.D.

Is Barbarian like Saw? ›

If you must know, "Barbarian" is not in the realm of "torture porn" horror like "Saw" or "Hostel" nor is it as brutally scary as say, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." It isn't high-brow horror as "Hereditary" nor is it as evil as "Hellraiser" or "Poltergeist." In many ways, "Barbarian" is its own thing.

What happens at the end of Barbarians movie? ›

To this end, the surprise ending of the film where the Mother willingly sacrifices herself to save Tess and, later, allows Tess to kill her signifies her innate trust in and solidarity with other women.

How long is Barbarian? ›

What is the villain in Barbarian? ›

Type of Villain

Frank is the titular overarching antagonist of the 2022 horror film Barbarian. He is a twisted man who kidnapped multiple women and raped them. When the women gave birth he raped the children which eventually resulted in The Mother being born.

Why was Barbarian rated so high? ›

The MPAA rated Barbarian R for some strong violence and gore, disturbing material, language throughout and nudity.

How long is Barbarian movie? ›

What is the theme of Barbarian? ›

In addition to being a downright terrifying horror flick, 'Barbarian' shrewdly explores themes of abuse and trauma.

Whats the twist in Barbarian? ›

When AJ goes to check on the two, it turns out the fall wasn't fatal for either of them, with the woman springing to life to kill AJ, before Tess manages to get the gun AJ had to kill her attack definitively.

Is Barbarian a Disney movie? ›

Barbarian' will not be on Netflix. The movie is a 20th Century Studios; therefore, it falls under the Disney umbrella. However, the movie will arrive on HBO Max due to a legacy contract.

What does the mother look like in Barbarian? ›

The Mother is a severely deformed woman, warped by the decades of parent-child incest between Frank and his lineage. Her body is frail, her face is malformed, and her hair is long and raggedy.

What happens to Keith in Barbarian? ›

Before they can run, a horrifying naked humanoid monstrosity, “The Mother” (Matthew Patrick Davis), appears and smashes Keith's head until he is dead before she roars at Tess.

Is Barbarian based on a true story? ›

It certainly is. Barbarians is based on the real Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Much like in the series, this pivotal battle happened under the cover of night when an alliance of Germanic tribes targeted the Roman forces that oppressed them. They were able to take out three Roman legions in the fight.

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