Barbarian Ending Explained: What's the Twist in the Horror Movie?

Hitting theaters this past weekend was Barbarian, a horror film that is helping kick off the horror movie season as we head towards October. Given that it's not a major franchise featuring huge stars, Barbarian has flown under the radar for most movie fans, though if you've seen anyone talking about it on social media, you've likely seen chatter about the unexpected twists and turns that the film takes, which add to what makes the experience so compelling. Currently sitting at 93% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, Barbarian is also one of the best-reviewed horror films of the year. For those who might be a bit intimidated by the horror realm but are interested in what the chatter surrounding the film is about, we're here to break down the narrative for you. Barbarian is in theaters now.

WARNING: Major spoilers for Barbarian below

The film starts with Tess (Georgina Campbell) arriving at a rental home on a dark and stormy night, only to learn that Keith (Bill Skarsgård) has also rented the same unit. With both of them having receipts to confirm they went through the proper channels, Keith offers Tess to spend the night there, given the home is in a bad neighborhood and there are no hotels nearby with availability. Even though this could be a perfect setup for Keith to have nefarious intentions, the pair have a good time together and, other than a door mysteriously opening, they get through the night without a hitch.

The next day, however, when Tess investigates a noise she hears in the basement, she discovers a hidden room with a soiled mattress, a bucket, and an old video camera. Keith decides to investigate the room for himself, though when he does, both he and Tess discover this hidden room is only the start of what the home is hiding, as they enter a series of underground tunnels before Keith is attacked and killed by a subterranean threat.

The film then cuts to actor AJ (Justin Long), who owns the home, having to head to the property during the fallout of him being exposed for sexually assaulting his costar. When he investigates noises similar to what Tess heard, he's more interested in the extra square footage he can list the property as having to hopefully sell it for more money. In the tunnels, he is also attacked by the tunnel-dweller and thrown into a pit alongside Tess.

A flashback reveals Frank (Richard Brake) as a serial kidnapper and rapist, who would take women into these tunnels, which resulted in pregnancies that he would also ultimately impregnate. The nude female attacker in the tunnels is a product of decades of incestuous impregnation by Frank. AJ discovers Frank in the tunnels, with Frank then retrieving a gun to kill himself.

With the premise implying that Keith could be the threat, the discovery that a super-strong woman is living in the tunnels beneath the house is more than enough of a twist for audiences to be taken by surprise by the events of the story, though there are still more unexpected elements. Early in the film, Tess is pursued by a homeless man (Jaymes Butler) who she initially feels threatened by, though when Tess manages to escape the tunnels, the man reveals he was trying to warn her about the home. He knew that the underground woman would leave the home at night, though claimed that a nearby water tower was a safe space. 

After Tess escapes, the woman pursues her, and she hits her with a car before going into the tunnels to save AJ. During the rescue, AJ accidentally shoots Tess with the gun retrieved from Frank, with the pair heading to the water tower for safety. Sadly, the location isn't as safe as they thought, with the woman tracking them down and chasing them to the top of the tower. Faced with certain doom, AJ throws Tess off the tower, knowing the woman will pursue her, as they both plummet to the concrete below.

When AJ goes to check on the two, it turns out the fall wasn't fatal for either of them, with the woman springing to life to kill AJ, before Tess manages to get the gun AJ had to kill her attack definitively. 

The number of twists and turns in Barbarian, along with the blend of both unsettling scares and genuine comedy, has understandably made it one of the more talked-about horror films of the year, surely leaving audiences to wonder if we could get more stories set in this mythology. 

Barbarian is in theaters now. Barbarian doesn't currently have a streaming release date.

What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!