2022 was a decent year for horror films and contributed a great mix of diverse films to the genre. With hits like The Menu, Scream 5, Nope, and Smile, there was something for everyone whether you enjoy supernatural scares, slasher films, or psychological horror, with Terrifier 2 also making sure that gore fans were happy too. In the midst of all these came a film called Barbarian, which featured a marketing campaign that promised something so dark and terrifying it caused audience members at special screenings to walk out of the cinema.

Aside from this, the trailer deliberately offered not much else, ensuring audiences were full of anticipation by the time the movie hit mainstream theaters. The film itself largely delivered on the thrills it promised, though, not in the way most viewers may have expected. Instead, the true artistry of it came courtesy of how it subverted expectations to provide a coalescent mix of psychological horror, jump scares, and grotesque moments beyond traditional supernatural horrors. In the end, Barbarian proved to be one of the best horror films of the year and a hit with critics too as it holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you're wondering why horror fans loved the film so much, these were its scariest moments.

10 The Atmosphere From the Beginning

Campbell in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

If you go in cold to this film, all you'll know about it is that it has a scary reputation and is called Barbarian. The opening scene immediately sets the tone for its psychological horror since it starts with a beautiful young woman arriving at a creepy Airbnb during a storm, only to find that it's apparently been double-booked and there's already a male occupant staying there.

Related: Barbarian: A Breath of Fresh Air to the Horror Genre

Knowing that the film is called Barbarian and seeing a beautiful woman being forced to spend the night with a stranger, or be stranded outside in a dodgy neighborhood during a storm, immediately provides some great tension. It also becomes the catalyst for misdirection as it implores viewers to wonder if the strange man is the "barbarian."

9 Bill Skarsgård Playing the Stranger

barbarian 2022
20th Century Studios

Georgina Campbell was the main protagonist, playing the beautiful woman who winds up forced to spend the night with a stranger. She plays the part well since her doe-eyed expression communicates her inner vulnerability despite the suspicious and assertive manner she initially portrays. Adding to all the suspense was a brilliant casting choice. That's because the stranger was played by Bill Skarsgård. Skarsgård is of course now world-famous for playing Pennywise in the It films.

That fact alone makes his presence in the film intimidating enough. However, let's face it, even when he's not in clown make-up, Bill Skarsgård looks kinda creepy anyway with his deadpan expression and cold smile. Just seeing him in the film immediately injects it with a scary undertone that compels viewers to wonder if he's possibly a killer, and what he might be planning to do to this poor woman that stumbled in there.

8 Tess Being Chased

Campbell in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

After the first night sets viewers up for the unknown, the next day, a noticeably softer tone throws you off track again. This time, Tess goes for an interview nearby, but when she re-enters the street, soon realizes that she may have made a grave mistake by choosing the house she did.

The first heart-stopping scene ensues when a homeless man chases her as she walks toward the house. As scary as this is, it's nothing compared to the fact that there are hints he was trying to warn her, rather than attack her. This means, it's actually the house that holds the danger, and now she's back inside it.

7 The Way It Unravels

Barbary Street in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

One of the best aspects of Barbarian is the way it misdirects viewers. Now having seen the outside of the house during the day, the main character Tess learns that the street they've been staying on is dilapidated and seems to have been abandoned a long time ago. This only adds to the grave sense of her being trapped and isolated in it. The entire time the two people are alone at the Airbnb, tension builds and viewers have no idea where it's all headed since trailers for the film were deliberately vague.

While early scenes take place in the house, which is spacious and well-lit, Tess soon finds herself in a creepy, claustrophobic space shrouded in darkness, where her discomfort is palpable. The darkness all around her, she finds signs that something horrific has played out here, while unknown danger seems to lurk around every corner as the cinematography brilliantly plays on these aspects.

6 The Twists

Campbell and Long in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

Every time you think you have the film pegged for where it may be headed, it changes on you again. After some truly haunting moments where Tess learns that there's something terrifying lurking around the hidden portions of the house, the film gives viewers a short interlude from its intensity. By the second half, a poignant flashback scene switches up the narrative completely and shows us the house's prior history and who used to live there.

We're then provided with some frightening insights into why the house seemed to have such a malevolent aura from the beginning. Before we know it, the film switches completely again as we learn that it's actually the story of two people whose lives converge at the home. All of this keeps up a brilliant guessing game that ramps up the fear factor of who or what the "barbarian" actually is.

5 The Possibilities

Staircase scene in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

Discovering the sickening truth that the house has hidden chambers provides Tess with some horrendous clues to what she may actually be facing. The state of the room she finds and the items lying around, together with the other evidence, all point toward dreadful possibilities. It could be a place where murders took, sexual slavery occurred, or something even worse.

The fact that Tess is herself a young and vulnerable woman makes this moment more unsettling. This is confirmed when she loses Keith and the new character that's introduced in part two enters the fray. We learn soon that something is down there, and it's monstrous.

4 The True Horror

Brake on Barbarian
20th Century Studios

So the fact that the film contains a ghastly entity makes for some very scary moments indeed. However, what is probably the scariest part of the film is the extent of what it all actually meant and what must have really gone on in that house over the decades. We learn that there was possibly dozens of merciless crimes committed there, but the amount of victims and exactly what they may have all endured is left up to the viewer to contemplate.

This all makes for some sickening thoughts as the film forces you to imagine the history of the house and everything that led to the present. By this point, the darkness, the frightening thing that terrorizes the house, and the danger posed by it have already rattled your nerves. This moment tacks on psychological elements that combine to make the film even more grisly than it ever seemed to be in the beginning.

3 Justin Long's Feeding

Justin Long in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

Justin Long has become something of a horror icon since he's been in a fair few now. His appearance in the second part of Barbarian shifts the movie again and throws him directly into its mix. When he enters the Airbnb and finds signs that someone is already staying there, there's palpable unease and fear in him as he finds the hidden chambers and enters them to investigate.

He's soon united with Tess who confirms the nightmarish truth, that something ghastly is down there with them. We soon get the full onslaught from this hideous entity which becomes known as "mother." One of the most skin-crawling scenes is when Mother gets her hands on Long's character, AJ, and forcibly feeds him in a deeply unsettling way.

2 The Final Scenes

Mother in Barbarian
20th Century Studios

The most horrid parts of the film are actually more thematic than anything else. Despite the horrific truth of what has been chasing and trying to maim them finally being revealed, AJ's actions throughout his parts provide a disturbing question of whom the real monster actually is. ​

Related: The Ending of Barbarian, Explained

By the final scenes, "mother" is humanized a lot more while AJ metaphorically takes her place as a monster of sorts. Between these realizations, however, we get some massive jump scares and heart-stopping sequences where he and Tess have to fight for their lives while being pursued by "mother."

1 The Basis in Reality

Long Barbarian
20th Century Studios

There's a reason why Barbarian has a such a high rating, and it has nothing to do with how scary it is, at least not in the traditional horror movie sense. The most horrific part of the film is how it parallels the grotesque creature with monsters who actually exist in real life. We first learn that AJ is an actor who has been accused of sexually assaulting a co-star. His vehement denials and irritation at the accusation are so convincing, they almost seem to indicate that it may all be some kind of witch hunt or vengeful act against him.

However, he later drunkenly lets out the truth and it's indeed shocking. Worse yet, "mother" isn't the only person in the house's hidden chambers. The film has another monster in it, and this one has been terrorizing women for decades before Tess ever entered the house. By the end, the film proves so thematically layered that its true genius lies in the fact that it's actually an allegory for #MeToo.