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Barbarian's Most Terrifying Moments Ranked

This post contains spoilers about "Barbarian."

"Barbarian" is the first great horror film of the fall as it easily pleases horror-hungry crowds with its captivating mystery and tense scares. The third feature film from actor turned writer/director Zach Cregger brings viewers on an Airbnb trip from hell as two strangers forced to spend the night together after their rental is double-booked end up discovering the house's horrifying secrets, including an unexpected guest who's far from normal. "Barbarian" mixes great scares with surprisingly strong humor elevated by the great cast and Cregger's direction. Make no mistake, though, "Barbarian" is a total scare and shock-fest that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

From the first moment that the lead character Tess (Georgina Campbell) enters the house's dingy basement, the film slowly takes viewers down a twisted rabbit hole that continually delivers great scares. The film's central creature, named the Mother (Matthew Patrick Davis), leaves viewers trembling after an incredibly sudden reveal at the end of the first act, and let's not get started on that wild and weird final act full of gory bloodshed. "Barbarian" terrifies audiences in plenty of ways, so let's look at which scares in the film are truly the strongest. 

14. A quickly closing door

Who would've thought that going into "Barbarian" some of the tensest moments would come from a door? Well, "Barbarian" features a door to the basement that ends up causing a surprising amount of trouble as it locks whoever is beyond it in there with very few escape options. Even worse, it has a nasty tendency of closing on its own at inconvenient times.

It's a very fun play on the classic horror trope of doors closing on their own and leads to a surprisingly tense cat and mouse game for Tess. Every time she enters the basement, there's always that lingering fear that the basement door will shut, and she'll be trapped down there with all the house's horrors. There are some surprising close calls that Tess has with the door as it slowly starts to close, and it creates some early catch-your-breath moments in "Barbarian." It may not even compare all that well to other scares and startling revelations later in the film, but that door is a constant terror to the characters and the audience's nerves.

13. Mistaken identity

Even though we know that AJ (Justin Long) is basically the worst person ever as it becomes clear that he's very guilty of sexual assault, Tess doesn't know that and does everything in her power to try and save him. After Tess initially escapes, she goes back into the house to traverse the dark corridors and eventually makes her way back to the Mother's room. Soon after, though, she notices a light peaking out through the darkness, and with one little response, she finds herself on the ground with a bullet in her gut.

What Tess didn't realize is that AJ was able to get a pistol from Frank (Richard Brake) and is now nervously going through the tunnels still believing that the Mother is somewhere hiding. Thus, when he sees a shadowy figure standing just a short distance away from him, he doesn't hesitate to fire. Unfortunately for him, it's just Tess standing there, and the entire sequence is perfectly thrilling. The build-up to Tess returning into the house is incredibly tense and the moment of her seeing the light of AJ's phone leaves you silent only to be instantly frightened by the well-timed jump scare of the gunshot. You're left even more scared afterward as Tess is basically clinging on as she bleeds for the rest of the film.

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).

12. Terror with a tape measure

Oh AJ, he's such a clueless person when he first enters the house as he mostly ignores all the warning signs that things are off. He's so hopelessly dim that even when he finds the secret room in the basement, he thinks nothing of it and whips out the tape measure to see if he can get more value out of the property. It's a sequence that starts off funny with how AJ is unknowingly bringing himself deeper into trouble as he travels further into the tunnels but quickly turns terrifying.

Eventually, the Mother starts to toy with AJ by messing with his tape measurer, even ripping it away from him. It's a great moment of comedy turning to horror as it kicks off a wild chase sequence through the tunnels that leaves AJ trapped and reveals Tess is still alive. Plus, the tape measure comes back later in the film to nearly thwart Tess' escape and provide a good jump scare in an already-tense moment.

11. A surprise appearance

After both AJ and an injured Tess leave the house, they are sheltered by Andre (Jaymes Butler), a local homeless man, who allows them a moment of solace as the Mother continues to look for them. It's here that Andre discloses the Mother's gut-wrenching origins and tries to give AJ and Tess a moment to catch their breath. But good moments don't last for long in "Barbarian," and with one little comment about his place being safe, they end up being famous last words for Andre.

The sudden reappearance of the Mother results in a great jump scare and not only kicks off a thrilling finale chase but delivers a truly brutal kill as the Mother rips Andre's arm off and beats him to death. "Barbarian" features some surprisingly gruesome kills throughout and Andre's is no different. It's a bloody end to a character with good intentions and a memorably terrifying moment that breaks the calming atmosphere with sudden terror.

10. AJ discovers Frank

Once AJ escapes from the Mother while he's still trapped in the tunnels, he eventually finds another secret room. However, he's not alone. Soon after looking around the room, AJ notices that a frail old man is also in the room, and he tries to help him speak. While this would seem like a hopeful moment at first, audiences will quickly realize that the old man is Frank — the original owner of the house who is a serial rapist — and know that he is not to be trusted.

Frank is initially introduced in some flashbacks of him stalking a woman that show him to be a bad guy, and seeing him again is absolutely terrifying as you're already aware of his sinister behavior. Every move he makes feels like it could have horrifying consequences for AJ, and your eyes are locked onto the cord for the bell system in fear that he'll pull it. AJ too eventually realizes Frank's sadistic behavior and ridicules him before Frank takes things into his own hands. It's a sequence that starts with an unexpected return of a terrifying character and continually leaves you on edge as Cregger plays with your fears of Frank.

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).

9. Frank's VHS collection

AJ eventually meeting Frank is terrifying in its own way with how little he knows, but his discovery of Frank's videotape collection is even more horrifying. As AJ looks around Frank's room, he sees a collection of VHS tapes with crude descriptions on them, and, after sticking one in, he becomes mortified by the truth. The flashbacks already established Frank's methods in setting up his kidnappings, but the videotapes and Andre's explanation for the Mother's creation paint a darker picture.

Although we never see what happens in the videos (thankfully), AJ's horrified reaction says everything you'd need to know, and you can't blame him for the instant terror and disgust that's seen on his face. Throughout the film, your mind is racing for answers about what Frank actually did in the basement, and the truth that he tortured the women he captured down there is one of the most chilling and disturbing reveals of "Barbarian." If you needed any more reason to think that Frank is an absolute monster, this moment cements it.

8. The horrifying origins of the Mother

Right from when the Mother first appears, you're left wondering how this horrifying creature came to be. From her inhuman physical form to her disturbingly gruesome outbursts that cause some serious bloodshed in the film, the Mother is a terrifying force. Things don't get much better when Andre reveals the truth behind the creature's origins as it sends disgusting chills throughout your entire body.

As said by Andre, the Mother is the monstrous product of continual incest from Frank's raping of not only the women he kidnapped throughout the years but also the children that they produced. The second you hear Andre talk about the Mother's creation, you instantly feel your stomach churning in disgust, and it sadly feels fitting for the Mother's grotesque look to come from something so disturbing. It also preludes a big jump scare and Andre's swift death, so it acts as a terrifying and gross appetizer to the terror and tragedy of the film's final act.

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).

7. Night terrors

One of the earliest scares in "Barbarian" comes when Tess and Keith (Bill Skarsgard) are first in the house together for the night as Keith's bad dreaming creates an unnerving sequence. After Tess wakes up from someone or something opening her door and making a creepy sound while she is sleeping, she finds that Keith is wrestling and moaning on the couch. What follows is an absolutely nerve-racking sequence of Tess walking towards Keith as he has some serious night terrors.

Tess approaching Keith is purely thrilling and the growing sounds of Keith's cries of terror ratchet up the tension immensely. The jump scare that comes from Keith suddenly waking up delivers a perfect jolt to viewers and acts as a great end stinger to a scary sequence. It all ends with some good laughs with the awkward exchange between Tess and Keith, but it's an unforgettably tense moment early in the film that sets the tone perfectly and instills some good chills.

6. Secret discoveries

Part of what makes "Barbarian" such a rollercoaster of terror is how it keeps its answers in the dark to let your mind simmer on the worst possibilities. That's exactly what happens when Tess discovers the hidden side room for the first time as its dingy and desolate atmosphere makes for a horrifying moment. The disgusting mattress, sleazy lighting, and video camera make it feel like Tess is walking into the setting of a snuff film, which sadly isn't far from the truth.

When Tess first discovers the room, you don't know what it's for yet so it ends up being the first terrifying tidbit that gets your mind racing. Until AJ uncovers the truth in Frank's room, you're left thinking about the worst realities and unfortunately, the truth isn't that much better. Tess' initial discovery is a great early thrill that's super terrifying and is the first real breadcrumb viewers have with the disturbing mystery that unfolds. 

5. A gruesome final kill

The entire last act of "Barbarian" is full of terrifying moments as AJ and Tess are in a fight for their lives against the Mother. While AJ might have a moment of realization about his behavior, that doesn't mean he's willing to sacrifice himself in order to save Tess, who is suffering from a bullet wound inflicted by AJ. Actually, he's far from being a hero as he tries to sacrifice Tess in the final moments of the chase just to save his own skin. It's a moment that's incredibly suspenseful since you don't really know if Tess or the Mother survives the fall. 

At first, it seems like the Mother isn't getting back up, but unfortunately for AJ, she does, and she's not letting him get away this time. AJ's death is one of the gnarliest kills of the film as the Mother not only pokes out his eyes but crushes his head with her bare hands. Cregger doesn't hide anything either, so it's an incredibly gory and gross kill that's satisfying because of how terrible AJ is, but incredibly horrifying because it's so graphic. No one is forgetting this kill, that's for sure. 

4. Morbid motherly moments

After AJ and Tess first meet while being captured by the Mother, you can't help but wonder what she really plans to do with these two, and the answer is truly creepier than one's wildest imagination. Viewers quickly learn why the creature is credited as "The Mother" as she tries to enact motherly actions on Tess and AJ to basically make them like her children. However, given the Mother's grotesque look, motherly duties have never looked so morbid. 

The entire sequence is a total nail-biter as Tess' survival instincts force her to blend into the situation by reluctantly drinking the baby bottle filled with the Mother's breast milk. It's a nasty moment that hits you right in the gut, but it's ultimately a smart choice given what happens to AJ when he refuses. It's tough not to be squirming in your seat when the Mother drags AJ through the tunnels and tries to breastfeed him. Overall, "Barbarian" certainly makes you understand why the Mother earns her name and it couldn't be more disturbing or strange. 

3. First blood

The Mother is a constantly terrifying threat throughout "Barbarian," but it's her initial debut that's the most terrifying since it comes out of nowhere. By the time the Mother enters the picture, you're completely engaged with Tess and Keith's fun chemistry and slow-growing bond as well as the intriguing mystery that's afoot. When she finally does arrive towards the end of the first act, you're totally in the dark about what's really going on and it makes her shambling out of the shadows absolutely horrifying. 

Just as Tess and Keith reunite in a dark and dingy tunnel, the Mother literally comes from the shadows to deliver a terrifying fright and perform a shocking and bloody kill on Keith by repeatedly bashing his head against the wall. It's a moment where the horrors of "Barbarian" really come out to play and it's an incredibly memorable way to hook horror fans through a fantastic reveal of a terrifying horror antagonist. 

2. AJ is a real life horror

Unfortunately, we need to talk a little more about AJ as his story brings in some real-life horrors that give the film a socially conscious element to its story. When we first meet AJ, he is facing accusations of sexual assault against a former co-star of his. While he heavily denies it, there are moments where his personality and general attitude make you suspicious of him. It's not too long until we find out the truth, and it makes it tough to look at him the same way. 

In a drunken conversation with an old friend at a bar, he doesn't say it outright, but he basically confirms that the story is true and further confirms it in a realization he has after Andre gives him and Tess a short-lived hideout. There's just something about AJ's story that hits a disgustingly real place and even while Cregger's direction and Long's performance make you laugh at his dimwittedness, you never forget what AJ's done and he's truly a walking real-life horror. 

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). 

1. She comes at night

Just as all hope seems lost for Tess after the cops don't believe her and she's once again left on her own, she decides to take the Mother head-on with the help of something mentioned by Andre. Amongst his ramblings, Andre mentions that the Mother only comes out at night and with that knowledge, Tess sets up a trap using her car to ram into the Mother when it appears. The anticipation leading up to the moment the Mother rises from the small basement window is killer and when she does appear it's through a strong scare. 

It's incredibly creepy to watch her slowly crawl out of the tiny window hole and there is something satisfying about Tess finally taking action against the Mother to try and go save AJ. Not to mention, it's super scary to see the Mother snarl and scream at Tess after she gets hit by the car, but it doesn't keep her down for long at all.