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Why Is the Barbarian Horror Movie Called Barbarian? Explained

Georgina Campbell as Tess in 20th Century Studios' BARBARIAN, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Image Source: 20th Century Studios
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Why Is the Barbarian Horror Movie Called Barbarian? Explained

So, when’s the barbarian gonna show up?

Seemingly out of nowhere, Zach Cregger’s edge-of-your-seat horror-thriller has landed on streaming services around the world and is even continuing its theatrical runs in some markets, too. If you’ve arrived here, chances are you’re wondering: Why is the Barbarian horror movie called Barbarian? With that in mind, then, let’s get down to business.

***Major Story Spoilers for Barbarian Follow***

Why Is Barbarian Called Barbarian? Explained

Funnily enough, by the time the credits roll, many folks out there may be wondering why the titular Barbarian didn’t show up in the movie. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Truth is, the film’s own writer-director has gone on record and said that he chose the name largely because it “sounds spooky”.

What’s really interesting, though, is that there are several meanings that you can extrapolate from the 102-minute thrill ride’s title. Firstly, the Airbnb that the horror takes place in is “476 Barbary”, which is also serendipitously the year that Rome fell to the barbarians. Eerie coincidence, right?

Another unforeseen meaning behind the title that Zach Cregger only heard about after he had filmed the pic is that “barbarian” is an anagram of “Airbnb”, which is obviously where the majority of the film is set. *shivers*

However, another more symbolic interpretation as to why the film is titled the way it is may lie in the different characters that comprise Barbarian. You see, the horror pic is all about subverting expectations, playing with narrative tropes, and keeping viewers constantly on their toes.

Initially, Bill Skarsgård’s Keith could be the potential monster, and the film successfully lulls you into believing this. However, Keith is actually a nice guy and ends up being the first victim of the creature known as the Mother. Fascinatingly enough, you’d think that the Mother is the real monster within Barbarian, and in some ways she is, but surprisingly she’s actually quite a sympathetic character who was trapped and raised by the real monster: Frank.

Indeed, as the movie unfolds, you soon realize that the real monster at the heart of the film is instead the serial rapist and kidnapper who spends his days abducting women and filming his victims in his basement. In short, your expectations of what a monster is are being subverted and the rug is pulled from under you. And here is where we start to get to the potential answer behind the film’s title.

Justin Long (AJ), Barbarian
Image Source: 20th Century Studios

Soon after Frank’s reveal, another character is introduced in the second act called AJ Gilbride (portrayed by Justin Long) who is a sitcom actor who has been accused of sexual impropriety: allegedly, he raped a colleague at a party. Interestingly, AJ is a very charming character and at first blush, it’s hard to believe that his character would do such a thing. As the story progresses and we learn more about AJ, it’s fair to say that our initial first impressions about him were wrong: AJ is undoubtedly a selfish, predatory monster as well.

In a really intriguing moment late in Barbarian, both AJ and Frank meet and it’s at this point where we see a sort of mirror image of the two. Of course, AJ isn’t quite on the same monstrous level yet as Frank has become, but there’s definitely a juxtaposition of the two characters, and it’s here that another meaning of the title of the film can be gleaned.

As AJ stares at the bedridden monstrosity that is Frank, and as AJ looks upon the rows upon rows of video tapes filled with rape and torture, AJ comes to a realization that this man in front of him (Frank) could’ve easily been him (AJ). In many ways, Frank and AJ are two sides of the same awful coin, but the difference is that AJ is operating more within the boundaries of social norms and conventions. For that reason, if only AJ had let his wild desires run free, and release his inner barbarian, then AJ could be the one sat in the bed instead of Frank.

So, there you have it. Hopefully, this has helped to answer your query: Why is the Barbarian horror movie called Barbarian? For more on the film, check out our official review as well as a guide explaining why the Mother is obsessed with milk. Alternatively, feel free to browse the relevant links down below.

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