SPOILER WARNING: The following article includes some heavy hints at crucial plot details from Barbarian. If you have not seen the horror movie yet, act like Georgina Campbell’s character and proceed with caution.
Who knew that some of the best horror movies in recent memory would come from the minds of some of the most talented names in comedy? We have seen it happen with Jordan Peele and his Oscar-winning directorial debut, Get Out, and later with British comic Matthew Holness and his chilling 2018 feature, Possum. Now, the latest contributor to this phenomenon is former The Whitest Kids ‘U Know member, Zach Cregger, with his terrifying box office hit, Barbarian.
The mysteriously subversive and creepily bizarre thriller stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, and Justin Long as three people who discover a horrifying secret hidden beneath the basement of a vacation rental home. While the surprising twists and brutal ending certainly make it one of the more unique horror films of its time, it did remind me of a few other notable flicks, new and old, for various reasons. I have compiled all of these titles in a list that I recommend fans of Barbarian check out if they have not already.
Vacancy (Amazon Rental)
After their car breaks down in the middle of the night, a man (Luke Wilson) and his wife (Kate Beckinsale) take refuge at a grotesque, rundown motel that offers its own selection of video tapes which are all set in a place that looks shocking familiar to them.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: While Barbarian introduces the concept of an AirBNB from Hell, one of the scariest and most grounded thrillers about a motel from Hell is Vacancy — the 2007 English-language debut of director Nimród Antal that actually bears a few other disturbing similarities to the 2022 movie in question.
Rent/Buy Vacancy on Amazon (opens in new tab).
The ‘Burbs (Vudu Rental)
A suburban husband and father (Tom Hanks) wants nothing more than to spend the summer relaxing in the comfort of his own home, but is interrupted by foreboding gossip about his mysterious neighbors that soon becomes too convincing to ignore.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: The main setting of Barbarian is a house that appears more welcoming than any other home in its creepy neighborhood, but is ironically hiding some deadly secrets, whereas director Joe Dante’s classic dark comedy and one of the more underrated Tom Hanks movies, 1989’s The ‘Burbs, involves the creepiest house in an otherwise welcoming neighborhood that may or may not be hiding some deadly secrets.
Rent/Buy The ‘Burbs on Vudu (opens in new tab).
It Follows (Netflix)
A young woman (Maika Monroe, one of today’s most talented horror Scream Queens) is stalked by a murderous, inhuman entity that only she can see, as part of a curse that can only be passed down to another person through sexual intercourse.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: The creepy (let alone apocalyptic) neighborhood in Barbarian is meant to be located in Detroit, Michigan, which is also the site of some of the more memorable and visually haunting scenes in 2015’s It Follows — writer and director David Robert Mitchell’s frightening sophomore effort featuring one of the scariest modern horror movie villains in recent memory.
The People Under The Stairs (Peacock Premium)
After he and two adults break into the home of their landlords (Twin Peaks cast members Everett McGill and Wendy Cobie) in the hope of snatching hidden loot, a resilient teenager (The Sandlot cast member Brandon Quintin Adams) discovers there is more to be found inside when he becomes trapped and grows desperate to escape.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: Shifting gears back to creepy houses hiding deadly (and quite grotesque) secrets, such is also the main setting of one of writer and director Wes Craven’s more horrifyingly grounded thrillers, 1991’s The People Under the Stairs — an underrated classic of Black horror that, also like Barbarian, offers some thought-provoking social commentary, particularly related to poverty and urban decay.
Stream The People Under The Stairs on Peacock Premium (opens in new tab).
Rent/Buy The People Under The Stairs on Amazon (opens in new tab).
After she gets caught trying to rob an ATM, a woman (Morgana O’Reilly) is sent to live under house arrest in her childhood home, which she soon begins to suspect is haunted.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: Much like the aforementioned setting of Barbarian, there is, initially, nothing overtly creepy about the setting of Housebound — New Zealand-based writer and director Gerard Johnstone’s horror-comedy favorite from 2014 — which our main character becomes legally trapped inside before discovering that someone (or something) is lurking in the shadows.
The Boy (Netflix)
A young American woman (British actor and The Walking Dead cast member Lauren Cohan) is hired by an English couple to care for their “son” — a life-sized doll named Brahms — which seems like an easy, if not strange, job, until she begins to suspect the doll is alive.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: I always found Orphan: First Kill director William Brent Bell’s 2016 film, The Boy, to be a fun, underrated gem of a thriller (especially with how creepy that damn doll is), even if it does have a twist ending a little too similar to Housebound and, in retrospect, Barbarian, too.
After struggling to navigate the modern dating scene, a young woman (Daisy Edgar-Jones) falls for a charming doctor (Sebastian Stan), only to discover that he is not quite what he seems.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: If you did not know that Barbarian was a horror movie, you might think it was an innocent rom-com in how Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård’s characters interact with each other before the rug is pulled right from underneath you, which is strikingly similar to the structure of Mimi Cave’s directorial debut, Fresh — another brilliantly subversive, psychologically disturbing, and cheekily comedic 2022 release that I am not at liberty to reveal much more about.
Stream Fresh on Hulu (opens in new tab).
A family of four struggling with poverty find the solution to their problems by maliciously earning the trust of a well-to-do family whom they befriend and become employed by.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: I am also not at liberty to reveal much more about South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, and all around dazzling Best Picture Oscar winner, Parasite, other than the fact that, like Barbarian, this instant classic from 2019 experiences a dramatic tonal shift halfway through and boasts some eerily similar (and just plain eerie) plot twists.
Stream Parasite on Hulu (opens in new tab).
All My Friends Hate Me (Hulu)
When a young man (Tom Stourton) reunites with his old college buddies for a weekend, he cannot seem to shake the feeling that they may have something against him or are even planning something against him.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: Georgina Campbell stars in Barbarian as a woman uncertain if she should trust the strange man (Bill Skarsgård) who has mistakenly booked the same vacation rental home, and also stars in All My Friends Hate Me as a woman whose old friend is uncertain if he should trust her and the rest of their friend group in director Andrew Gaynord’s clever, intense, and dementedly funny British film, released in 2022.
Tusk (HBO Max)
A smarmy, American podcast host (Justin Long) travels to Canada where he crosses paths with a former sailor (Michael Parks) with a strange fascination with walruses that fuels a disturbing hidden agenda.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: The scene-stealer of the Barbarian cast is Justin Long as a pretty unlikable guy embroiled in an unimaginably horrible situation, which is also a spot-on way to describe what happens to him in 2014’s Tusk — a deeply unsettling, bafflingly strange, and quite polarizing body horror flick from another filmmaker better known for comedy: writer and director Kevin Smith.
Journalist David Holthouse investigates the mystery behind the strange, unsolved murder of three marijuana growers in California’s Mendocino County from 25 years earlier, and begins to uncover evidence that suggests it was the work of a mythological creature.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Barbarian: While Barbarian is writer and director Zach Cregger’s first try at a horror flick, his first serious deviation from comedy was Sasquatch — a three-part, Hulu-exclusive true crime docuseries that he executive produced in 2021, along with another pair of filmmakers better known for comedy: Jay and Mark Duplass.
Stream Sasquatch on Hulu (opens in new tab).
I considered also recommending 2017’s It, since that is what made Bill Skarsgård the “Scream King” he is considered today, but figured that does not qualify as a strong enough connection. The same goes for one of Georgina Campbell’s great performances in one of the best Black Mirror episodes, “Hang the DJ,” and Zach Cregger’s raunchy feature-length debut from 2009, Miss March. However, Justin Long’s character in Jeepers Creepers does bear more similarities to his Barbarian role than meets the eye.