British actress Georgina Campbell is fulfilling a professional goal: to star in a horror film.
Campbell is the lead of director Zach Cregger’s “Barbarian,” which comes out in theaters on Friday. The film costars Bill Skarsgard (himself a horror veteran, via “It”) and Justin Long who, like Cregger, comes from a comedy background.
The actress initially had a different job lined up when her American agent sent her the script for “Barbarian.”
“I’ve always wanted to do a horror film, but I just hadn’t found a script that made me feel like, oh, this is the one,” says Campbell from L.A. in mid-August. “I started reading [the script for ‘Barbarian’] late at night and I was reading it in a fever, like I couldn’t stop. I just kept going, going, going, and it kept getting better and better and crazier and crazier. And then I finished it and suddenly was like, oh, my God, I really, really wanna do this job.”
The film screened at Comic-Con in July, generating early buzz for the twisty genre film. The story hits many of the usual beloved horror tropes — a creepy basement, creepy stranger, gore — while simultaneously serving up moments of unfettered comedy and social commentary.
“This film deals with people who have gone through traumatic situations,” says Campbell. “The characters have all had traumas that have shaped them differently.”
Cregger explained that he was interested in exploring how a woman might respond instinctively with fear in a situation, where a man might not. In the film’s opening scene Campbell’s character, Tess, arrives at a rental house in Detroit to discover that it is double booked; there’s a man already staying there. It’s late at night; it’s raining, and the man (portrayed by Skarsgard) invites her inside and offers her a cup of tea. “And that is a bit scary because you don’t know this person, and they could put something in it,” she says.
The actress admits to reading the comments on the film’s trailer, curious about what people were saying about the film. The trailer gives little away, ending with her character letting out a definitive “nope” at the top of a staircase descending into darkness.
“There were a few comments that were like, oh, my God, you know, the old trope — she keeps going back, so silly. Like, why wouldn’t you call the police? Why wouldn’t you do this? Why wouldn’t you do that? But I think when you see the whole film, Zach cleverly has written it so there are many reasons why,” says Campbell. “Tess as a character has a real morality to her. She’s the one that’s trying to save everyone. Usually it’s a man that’s coming back and the woman’s in distress and I have to save her. And she’s that person. She’s the one who wants everyone to be safe.”
Asked whether she, as the actress, expressed a similar visceral reaction (don’t go down there!), she offers that she shared in the horror of her character. “When Tess first goes down [to the basement] she’s terrified by what she sees,” says Campbell. “And I mean, when I went down there, just acting and saw that room, it’s horrible. It’s a really horrible visual.”
Campbell recently wrapped filming for “A Ciegas,” the Spanish spinoff of “Bird Box” for Netflix, and also starred in the Apple TV+ thriller series “Suspicion,” which came out earlier this year. After two years of back-to-back filming, Campbell is looking forward to some downtime — coupled with an international move. She’s currently in the process of relocating from London to L.A.
“This is kind of the first moment of taking a breather and enjoying everything with ‘Barbarian’ and trying to move,” she says. “Figure those things out, but I’m sure something will come up soon.”