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The Ending Of Barbarian Explained

The following story contains spoilers for "Barbarian."

Horror fans got an early treat this fall with "Barbarian" as it delivers tons of unexpected and wild horrors that any fan of the genre loves to see. The third feature from writer-director Zach Cregger brings viewers into an Airbnb horror story that sees a young woman named Tess (Georgina Campbell) find herself in an awkward situation after the place she's staying at has been double-booked, forcing her to spend a night with a stranger named Keith (Bill Skarsgard). However, Keith ends up being the least of her concerns as the house they're staying in has a horrifying secret of its own and a terrifying entity that has its own twisted plans for them.

Overall, "Barbarian" is a strong showing from everyone involved as it delivers great scares, some surprisingly sharp comedy, and mind-blowing twists and turns that make it a great effort from Cregger. Plus, the final act is absolutely jam-packed with incredibly wild reveals that make "Barbarian" a captivating thrill ride, and that's exactly why you're here, right? "Barbarian's" big reveals and revelations can happen so fast and be so mind-bending that viewers barely have to time to process it all. So, we're going to break down and delve into the film's biggest reveals and the roller coaster of an ending to clear things up.

Horrifying origins

The central creature of "Barbarian," named "The Mother" (Matthew Patrick Davis) in the credits, delivers some of the biggest shocks at the end of the first act with her grotesque appearance being absolutely terrifying, and her brutal killing of Keith leaves your jaw on the floor. While her intentions and motivations to keep Tess and AJ (Justin Long) captive are clear as she wants to be their mother, her origins are a burning mystery throughout that are only solved when a local homeless man named Andre (Jaymes Butler) spills the beans. 

According to Andre, the Mother is the horrifying and grotesque result of incest stemming from Frank (Richard Brake), the serial rapist who originally owns the house, attacking not only the women he captured but also the children they had throughout the years. It's an incredibly disturbing revelation that explains the Mother's terrifyingly mutated look and the immense strength she possesses to rip people's arms off and crush their skulls with her bare hands. Cregger definitely takes some good inspiration from the "Wrong Turn" series' mutant cannibals as the Mother's mutated genes make her just as terrifying and surprisingly invincible as that franchise's antagonists.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Why so motherly?

Although the Mother is never referred to by that name in the movie, it's not too surprising to see why she earns the title as it plays a major role in how she treats her captors. From trying to feed Tess and AJ breast milk to diving off a tower to save Tess after AJ tries to sacrifice her, it's pretty apparent that the Mother is constantly trying to find willing children through the people that stay at the house. Although her behavior seems strange and is disturbingly framed at first, it becomes clearer why the Mother has such strong and forceful motherly instincts.

Given the bedridden state of Frank and the breastfeeding tutorial video on loop, it's very likely that the Mother developed her motherly tendencies while taking care of Frank over the years. The Mother being Frank's caregiver certainly makes sense given the bell system in Frank's room, and her treatment of those that accept her motherly actions, like Tess, also fits into her vision of being a mother to her captives. Although it can be incredibly disturbing at first, the Mother can have some surprisingly innocent moments towards the end that show that there is a sweet spot amongst the character's dark and disturbing demeanor. 

What really went on in the basement?

Right from the moment Tess enters the secret passageway in the basement, it's obvious that it's not the kind of place that you want to be in for too long with its incredibly dark and dingy atmosphere. What's more disturbing though is the creepy side room that Tess initially finds containing all the chilling and skin-crawling ingredients of a horrifying snuff film. Throughout the movie, you're left wondering what this room and all the creepy cages found throughout the tunnels were there for and all the disturbing answers come when AJ comes across an old man and his collection of horrors.

Upon discovering the old man completely bedridden in a secret room, AJ discovers his collection of horrifying video tapes marked with crude descriptions. With the help of some of the flashbacks we've seen of Frank, it's clear these videos are snuff films made by Frank in the basement where he tortured and assaulted numerous women he captured over the years. AJ's horrified reaction after putting one of the videos in says it all and it's easily one of the most horrifying revelations in "Barbarian."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Who is the old man AJ meets?

While trying to escape the Mother through narrow dark tunnels, AJ eventually stumbles upon an old man bedridden in a dingy side room. Although it's the first encounter for AJ, viewers have already met this man through some flashbacks as he's an older Frank. While Frank was once able to move around and enact his disturbing behavior on women he would kidnap and assault, he has now become a prisoner of his own creation and is forced live in his own hell.

Based on what viewers have seen of him in flashbacks and the number of snuff films he's clearly made over the years, no one's feeling bad about where Frank is in his life. He is truly an evil man, and while it's never made clear what Frank's motivations are for his cruel and inhumane actions, you never really feel like you want to get too deep inside his head. AJ might've thought that Frank was simply a frail old man at first glance, but once he sees some of Frank's sadistic behavior in one of the videos, it's a truth that's tough to handle for him. 

How has all of this stayed a secret?

One thing that's a constant curiosity in "Barbarian" is how all of this has possibly stayed a secret for many years with there obviously being plenty of renters who befell the same fate as Keith and fell into the Mother's hands. For instance, how did AJ and the realty company not know that Frank and the Mother have been there the whole time? Well, it seems like the result of sheer negligence, as AJ clearly never kept up on what was happening with the property given his conversations with his realty agent, and no one probably came around at night when the Mother would roam. Now, it's still a little sketchy that they never questioned the disappearances of previous tenants, but this isn't exactly a property anyone would want to go to. 

Cregger actually does a nice job establishing this neighborhood as rundown and being seen as a place you don't want to go. The reactions from both Tess' interviewer and the police help define this neighborhood as being exiled, making it easier for Frank and the Mother to be undetected. Plus, just looking at the state of the neighborhood, it's clear that no one has lived here for a long time. It's likely that after many families moved out of the neighborhood, as shown in a flashback conversation with Frank and his neighbor, the area became rundown making it easier for Frank and the Mother to stay hidden.   

One last shot

While we know that Frank is a sick and sadistic man who could easily be just as much of a fright as the Mother, AJ finds him at the end of his rope making it not too surprising that he dies at his own hands. It's a sudden moment that really drives AJ deeper into terror but gives him a pistol to use for defending himself. But why would Frank just suddenly end things after everything that he's done and not just use the bell to bring the Mother into the room to help get rid of AJ? Well, maybe he too was a prisoner of the Mother. 

Frank's weakened condition easily makes him no match for the Mother, who he's probably seen tear people apart over the years, and he's also probably learned that he needs to bend to the Mother's will to care for him in order to survive. With the gun already being too far from him, it's likely that the Mother moved it away from him in order to keep taking care of him and his last act is him simply seeking freedom from this hell. Also, he's clearly not going anywhere great based on what he's done. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Why the Mother spared Tess and not AJ

Tess quickly learns that tolerating the Mother's motherly instincts is the key to surviving the situation and her wrath. Unfortunately for AJ, he never really learns that survival tip, and his panicked and selfish behavior eventually catches up with him and leads to his death. When AJ pushes Tess off a tower to distract the Mother and hopefully survive, he mistakenly forgets that Tess has built a real connection with the Mother by accepting her actions. Where Tess drank the baby bottle of milk and tried to act as the Mother's child, AJ constantly rejected her, and pushing Tess off the roof was the final straw.

From the Mother's perspective, AJ pushes her baby off at that moment, so it only makes sense that she would get up in a fury and crush AJ's skull in an absolutely gruesome fashion. This motherly instinct ends up also being the Mother's undoing as it gives Tess the opportunity to put the creature down with a single shot to the head. It's actually kind of sad to see the Mother be taken down in a seemingly innocent moment of tender care as she genuinely looks like she loves Tess like a mother. But, seriously, you can't blame Tess for not wanting to go back into that nightmare.

Tess' fate

As said before, Tess is able to put the Mother down with a single shot to the head and be the sole survivor after this whole ordeal, but she's far from being in good shape after everyone else is dead. Not only has she sustained quite a few injuries from trying to escape, but AJ also shot her in the gut by accident making her start to bleed out. So, is Tess able to survive in the end?

The short answer seems like yes, as she's seen walking away during the credits. Although the gunshot killing the Mother kicks off the credits almost immediately, there are scenes that play throughout the film's credits that do show Tess getting up and walking through the destroyed neighborhood towards the gas station and the cops that initially called her ignored her pleas for help. With how resourceful and smart Tess is shown to be throughout the film, it's incredibly satisfying for her to be able to walk away into the sunset. 

Will there be a sequel?

Now for the age-old question that's asked about any original horror film that could easily be a crowd favorite, will there be a sequel? At the moment, there are no announced plans for a sequel to "Barbarian," and the film wraps things up on a definitive note with the Mother being killed and Tess walking out alive. That doesn't mean that there isn't potential for something more, though.

With how much time there is between Frank first taking women into the basement and the events of the film in the present, there's plenty of room for a prequel to spawn that follows another poor soul to enter the house and become terrorized by the Mother. Plus, there's no reason that an anthology film series couldn't happen either as "Barbarian" presents some good potential for other Airbnb horror stories to be told in the same universe. Truthfully, this will likely be a one-and-done horror trek, but there's no reason to believe that more couldn't be done. 

Will this kick off an Airbnb horror subgenre?

"Barbarian" isn't the first Airbnb-based horror movie to exist, and there's a good chance that it won't be the last, either. There have been plenty of horror movies throughout the years that have seen couples or families move into houses they eventually find to be harboring unexpected horrors and Airbnb horror movies could certainly be a modern take on that. We've already seen Airbnb horror be done with Dave Franco's 2020 feature directorial debut "The Rental," and "Barbarian" adds another iteration of Airbnb being a centerpiece to a modern horror story. 

So, is there an Airbnb horror subgenre on the rise? Frankly, why not? Horror is always trying to tackle more modern tales and having renters deal with unexpected terrors inside their Airbnb homes seems like a recipe for scares. Also, if you've ever stayed at an Airbnb, you understand why it's fitting for a horror movie as there's just always something creepy about staying in someone else's home. Time will tell if "Barbarian" is the start of something new for horror, but if it ends up being a huge hit, expect more slices of horror just like it. 

Is AJ guilty?

When viewers first meet AJ, he's in the midst of his career collapsing and becoming exiled as he faces accusations of sexual assault from a former co-star. Although he maintains that the accusations are untrue and that this woman is simply trying to ruin his career, there are moments that very likely prove that he is guilty. 

While he never outwardly says that he assaulted the woman, the drunken conversation he has with his old friend at the bar and his general attitude towards the situation makes him look incredibly guilty and completely remorseless. Plus, the big realization he has when sitting with Andre and an injured Tess basically acts as a confession to his wrongdoings. Unfortunately, AJ just further proves his selfishness and toxic mindset when he betrays Tess, but karma eventually comes back to bite him in the form of gruesomely brutal death. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Night walker

One of the more interesting aspects of the Mother comes from Andre as he tells Tess that the creature only comes out at night. Now, there's never an exact reason stated why the Mother only chooses to hunt during the night and there's nothing that says she's weakened by sunlight or anything like that, but there are some things that can help us understand why she only comes out during the dark. 

The first, and most obvious, is simply for the cover of darkness since her grotesque physical form would easily stick out to any passerby. Plus, she can easily grab people while they're asleep inside the house as we see her attempt to grab Tess the first night before sneaking back down to the basement. Also, her nightly routine could be something enforced by Frank as her presence could easily give away his operation. Frankly, there isn't much need for the Mother to be restricted to the nighttime since, just from looking at the state of the neighborhood, there's no one coming around during the day, but it's an interesting element to the creature that makes her even scarier.