“Barbarians” is a thriller-horror film attempting to draw out the barbaric spirits that live on still inside modern civilized men. Directed by Charles Dorfman, it revolves around four friends gathering for dinner at a “heavenly” country house, which they often refer to as a piece of paradise. However, it all goes wrong from there as all the concealed truths about the characters’ histories as well as the house’s come out and wreak mayhem. Without much depth or ability to make one think, “Barbarians” is mostly an average watch with interesting visuals but a plot that suffers.
‘Barbarians’ Plot Summary
The film begins with an advertisement clip about an idyllic country home in the neighborhoods of London that is now being transformed into a modern property with present-day amenities but with its lush rustic appeal intact. This project has been undertaken by a real estate developer, Lucas, who also stars in this advertisement calling out to prospective buyers. The property sits very close to a strange stone pillar that stands on the ground, almost similar to some of the columns at Stonehenge. Locals have revered this stone, which they call the Gaeta Stone (meaning gateway in Gaelic), for thousands of years, flocking to it during the solstice to mark the end of the old season and the arrival of a new one. Lucas also mentions the Wickes family, who have owned the land for generations and with whom the developer has worked closely and has now bought off the property. The last frame of the ad, however, shows Lucas’ face completely covered in blood, as the film teases something sinister about to happen.
Eva was a popular sculptor who had taken up the job of creating a smaller version of the Gaeta stone inside the house compounds and had been offered to stay in the house by Lucas. One morning, Eva and her boyfriend, Adam, are seen waking up inside the country house. They have found peace in this house and are excited about owning it, as they have placed an official bid, which they expect to be accepted. While out on a morning run, Adam sees a dying fox in one corner of the property, with its leg caught in a snare. He tries to help the wounded animal, but it does not let him get close, and that same animal is seen lying on the floor of the kitchen when Adam gets back to the house. Quite shocked and disgusted by it, both Adam and Eva are confused about what to do about it when Dan, one of the Wickes’ sons, comes to visit.
Seeing the fox, he strangles it and puts it out of its misery. Adam is a small-time filmmaker trying to make it big, and he is currently seen working on writing a book that he seems to struggle with even starting. “Barbarians” then shifts to the other couple, Lucas and his artist girlfriend Chloe, who are driving down to the house, where Lucas prepares his speech for a video. The real estate man is very active on social media, with frequent posts and video updates about his life and the Gateway project. But when he tries shooting the video in front of the Gaeta stone, he is attacked and shooed away by the devotees who have gathered to worship the stone.
It is revealed that although Lucas had started the project with the support of Alan Wickes, the main owner of the farmland, Wickes had soon felt cheated by him and had taken him to court over it. But the ruling was apparently going towards the rich and influential developer, and this led to Alan suffering a heart attack in the courtroom and dying from it. Since then, Lucas is hated in these parts of the countryside, and the attack he faces is because of this.
The two couples then meet at the country house, where they prepare for a friendly party and dinner to celebrate Adam’s birthday.
What Happens During The Dinner Party?
At dinner, the two couples initially discuss a lot of relevant present-world topics about politics, finance, and so on. Lucas seems to be the typical alpha male, one who thinks highly of himself even more than he actually is, while Adam is quite meek and soft-spoken, often dazed and confused about what to do or say. The two women are both artists, and Chloe is admittedly an ardent follower of Eva’s work. When Adam tries to speak about the book that he is trying to write, his ideas are ridiculed by Lucas, and Adam increasingly feels distant from the entire conversation.
After a while, Lucas discusses his new self-defense techniques and asks Adam to hit him in order to demonstrate them. As Adam (who had not been part of the conversation) refuses to, Lucas insults him, and Adam slaps him in retaliation. The air grows tense as Lucas finds it difficult to not react, but also has to be civilized at the dinner table, and then everything lightens up when it is revealed that Chloe is pregnant with Lucas’ child. Chloe goes to the restroom, and Adam asks to be excused from the table, wanting to smoke. However, he goes to the restroom door asking to talk to Chloe, and then it is revealed that the two also have some history with each other. Chloe had been an actress on the set of an ad film that Adam was making, and Lucas had met her through him. But Adam and Chloe then supposedly had a fling while cheating on their individual partners, and now Chloe wants him to forget that it ever happened.
A little later, Lucas jumps on Adam and twists his arm in a childish, egoistic way of avenging the slap. Adam, who has had enough of Lucas’ bullying, now decides to get back at him indirectly. Lucas had brought him a vial of liquid as a birthday gift that was supposed to be some sort of energy booster, aphrodisiac, and Viagra-like concoction with some psychedelic effects. Adam mixes some drops of this liquid into Lucas’ coffee in order to embarrass and humiliate him.
At the dinner table, the conversation gradually meanders towards the contract for the house, which Eva and Adam expect to sign that very night. But they are taken aback when Lucas tells them of another buyer who has offered him an amount much larger, and he wants to sell it to him. In response, Eva, who has not yet been paid for her work, threatens to take her sculpture away if the house is not sold to them. Realizing that his project would lose its central identity, Lucas cannot help but agree to the deal and hand the house over to Eva and Adam. He brings out a written contract and asks the couple to sign it. While Eva readily signs the paper, Adam cannot do it and says that he is not ready to do it. He once again insults him, saying that he should listen to his girlfriend like he always does, and this ensues a fight between the two men as they throw wine and glasses at each other. In such a fit, Adam reveals his fling with Chloe in front of everyone, shocking their respective partners beyond belief when the doorbell starts to ring.
Although the characters each fall into a type, there isn’t much depth to how they act or speak. Their names, with close reference to Biblical characters, are the only thoughts that they provoke.
While the meek Adam is not exactly the Adam in Eden, he is indeed blown mostly by Eva, much like Eve. There is a sense of just trying to hold on to the relationship between these two, as Adam seems unsure of them. Adam has his fair share of insecurities as well. He looks himself up on the internet and also tells Lucas that he has put down a fox, only to seem tough to Lucas, who has always called him a kid and a weakling. On the other hand, Lucas is boorish and brags, much like Lucifer, who would go to any extent to get his work done. It is not difficult to imagine that it was Lucas’ arm-twisting and dealings that killed Alan Wickes indirectly. Chloe’s character is the one with the least significance in the film; she exists mostly as Lucas’ partner who does oppose some of his opinions, but also is in love with him and wants to settle with him.
Who Are The Intruders?
When Eva opens the door after the relentless bell rings, she is taken hostage by two armed men in sheep-skull masks, and her mouth is taped and her hands tied. These two intruders do the same with Adam and Lucas, and two others in similar attire get hold of Chloe as she tries to flee. Gathering all four hostages in the living room, the intruders destroy their phones and then prepare a chair in front of a set phone camera. They then force Lucas to sit on the chair, drop a bag full of blood on his head, and give him a script to read in front of the camera, which tells his viewers to not believe him as he is a liar and a snake. The masked men also ransacked the entire house, turning the whole place over and destroying every piece of art. For a while, the effect of Lucas’ spiked coffee starts to have an effect on him as he rages and pants, and then sees an opportunity to retaliate when two of the guards go out to check on something. He grabs hold of a knife and stabs the lone intruder in the face, killing him within seconds.
A second intruder walks in, hearing the commotion, and seems way more concerned about his dead compatriot than the hostages who have freed themselves. As Lucas tries to shoot him with one of the intruders’ guns, he realizes that it is not loaded. He then runs out of the house to flee the attacker and maybe look for help. When the third intruder returns to the house, the three hostages are able to disarm him and take him hostage. Adam pulls off his mask to reveal the man to be Dan and the other dead man to be his brother. Lucas runs through the forest in a fit of drugged rage and is intercepted by one of the attackers. This man now reveals that they were the Wickes brothers who had planned this night’s attack only to frighten and humiliate him and his friends for having killed his father.
Getting violent was never their wish, and they certainly did not want any bloodshed. Lucas does not pay much heed to these words, and he attacks the man, but he cannot do too much, as the man overturns the attack and strangles him to death. Adam quickly arrives on the scene with a gun, which Eva has now loaded with bullets, and tries to stop the attacker. But his meek instincts kick in once again, and soon he is disarmed by the man who now takes him hostage.
‘Barbarians’ Ending Explained: Who Does The House Finally Belong To?
As dawn breaks, the Wickes take Adam, Eva, and Chloe hostage while they try to figure out their own plan. In the meantime, Adam tells Eva of his plan: he would offer to write the house off to the brothers, and in the meantime, she would have to attack Dan and then help Adam out. Both of them know that Dan would never attack Eva because he has a deep attraction and love for her. The plan does not work out, as the brothers don’t let Eva stay with Dan, and instead, the other brother takes Eva to get hold of the contract, while Dan guards Adam and Chloe. But in a quick series of actions, Adam bolts toward the stairs and runs upstairs where Eva has gone to get the contract. Dan shoots a warning shot, and this triggers Eva to hit her guard with a heavy showpiece. Adam runs into the room and tackles the intruder out through the window, shattering it and then falling heavily to the ground. Chloe also takes her moment, and stabs Dan with a knife, but is also shot back by him. As Dan struggles with pain, he is shot in the head and killed by Adam, who has survived the fall. Adam and Eva then hug each other amidst the three dead bodies, and the camera zooms out.
The house finally belongs to Adam and Eva, but not without a heavy burden on their minds. It would be unlikely that they could continue to live their life on a property with the scarring memory of this bloody night. It was indeed not the intention of the Wickes to cause any physical damage, but they had to give up on their wishes and react according to the situation, much like how they probably would have had to act when Lucas had tricked them into selling the property.
Although the first half, with the growing toxicity in inter-relationships between the two couples, was building up to be quite interesting, “Barbarians” loses its shine after the attacks and when the plot shifts quite rapidly. Despite the supernaturality of the dead fox that Adam sees over and over throughout the day, “Barbarians” fails to provide any interesting ideas and is ultimately a mediocre watch, easy to forget.
“Barbarians” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Charles Dorfman.