Mixups involving vacation rentals may be a relatively new sub-genre, but it's one that's apparently rife with possibilities. This past weekend, I decided to go see Zach Cregger's new film, Barbarian. Although it was a film that I didn't know much about, it was nonetheless a great experience.
Barbarian follows a young lady named Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) who is going to Detroit for a job interview. Her life is a bit hazy right now, having just gotten out of a toxic relationship. The house appears empty, but when she calls the property managers, no one answers. Then a light goes on. His name is Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgard).
'Barbarian' has a surprisingly similar concept to 'Love in the Villa.'
She is reasonably alerted when Keith tells her she is renting the property in 2022. Initially refusing to enter the house, she goes inside, but she takes a good deal of caution when she sees him his rental receipt. One booked on HomeAway, one booked on Airbnb.
Tess is uneasy. She wants to go out and look for a hotel, but there is a conference in town, and she'll be hard-pressed to find one. She visits Keith to interview for a job with a local documentary filmmaker, which is quite unusual.
The two exchange a bottle of wine and discuss Tess' previous relationship, and the two feel that there's a tenuous bond. Even though we're in for a horror movie at some point, this is a sweet setup. Keith uses a blanket cover to cover her bed, and Tess falls asleep on the couch.
At this point, I was experiencing a sharp sense of deja vu.
'Love in the Villa' is also a vacation rental that requires a double booking, but the similarities don't stop there.
Because, before going to the theater to see Barbarian, I had watched another movie at home. (Yes, my life consists of endless television and movies.) While doing chores around the house, I switched on Love in the Villa, a cliched romantic comedy film from Netflix. I had finished watching a rom-com the night before, so I turned it on.
Julie Hutton, a trained artist, has been infatuated with Shakespeare and especially Romeo and Juliet for as long as she can remember. Until her boyfriend breaks up with her right before the big adventure. She decides to stay in Verona.
Juliet Capulet arrives at her vacation rental in Verona after a lengthy flight, lost her luggage, and a tense car ride. If you know anything about Verona, Shakespeare, or other basic literary history, you'll know that Juliet was a fictional character. The balcony itself was never constructed until the 20th century.
Julie is shocked and immediately suspicious when she sees him book his room on HomeAway and she finds him on a fictional website that looks like TripAdvisor. Oh, and there's no need to go to another city. There's also a wine tasting in town.
In the house where Tess and Keith live, there are a lot of unnecessary shenanigans and terrible writing and acting, yet we end the film exactly where Tess and Keith land. Julie and Charlie discussing her ex-boyfriend and Charlie falling for her.
Horror and Romance Often Coincide in Movies
So, when I was watching Barbarian in the theater, did you realize that two of these vacation rental stories have been released within the span of a couple weeks of each other? One down to a silly Italian adventure with no stakes or consequences, and the other down to a basement in Detroit, where there are only stakes and consequences?
The use of forced proximity in fiction has always sparked stories. It's bound to sparks and sometimes explosions, but this is not the first genre that uses it: horror and romance often combine to create feelings of fear and foreboding. Even Brundlefly (Jeff Goldblum) has Ronnie (Geena Davis), as well. In Crimson Peak, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) had her own relationship with the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hi
Barbarian and Love in the Villa reminded me how connected these two genres might be. While that's true, there is an element of dark romance that has always been attracted to the horrific. However, the two have previously tangoed and produced remarkable results.
Barbarian would not be setting a precedent, but rather following the lead of some of the greats. Of course, that was not the case. If you've seen Barbarian, you'll know that I've only revealed the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to this tale that certainly does not follow any rules. Maybe they even managed to spend a week in Verona later that year.