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7th November 2023

There’s Something in the Barn review: Ancient elves and millennial Americans collide in witty Norwegian Christmas horror | FilmFear 2023

Magnus Martens’ festive black comedy sees it’s UK premiere as part of FilmFear at Manchester’s HOME cinema
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There’s Something in the Barn review: Ancient elves and millennial Americans collide in witty Norwegian Christmas horror | FilmFear 2023
Photo: There’s Something in the Barn @ FilmFear 2023 / HOME

So, there are actually two things in the barn. One is a sometimes demonic, sometimes subservient millennia-old elf with a fondness for bloodshed, and the other is an American who calls Norway “the motherland” because their great-great-great-great-great grandparent once lived there. You tell me which is scarier. 

Content Warning: graphic discussions of Chr*stmas, pre-December

When a dysfunctional family inherits a remote Norwegian estate, their natural instinct is to convert the property into a painfully millennial Airbnb. Little do they know, there’s an ancient elf in the barn, and it hates three things: noise, light, and change. It’s also about to add Yanks to that list. There’s Something in the Barn pays tongue-in-cheek homage to the twisted tales of Christmas past, from Gremlins to Die Hard. If James Wan, co-creator of Saw and mastermind behind Malignant, directed a hallmark movie, this would be it.

Director Magnus Martens teases us with the elf’s reveal, banishing it to the dark corners of the frame throughout the opening. When the little guy finally shuffles on-screen, it’s surprisingly… cute. Fostering a touching relationship with the family’s young son Lucas (Townes Bunner), the mini Nord is happy to get hygge with the family until they start being just a little too American, drenching the property in garish string lights and hosting riotous parties. Grogu-esque wide eyes on a downsized Gandalf’s body doesn’t read as the scariest of villains, but a nifty pair of black contacts and some raspy Latin murmurs manage to elevate the elf to a terrifying threat when necessary.

The ensuing Home Alone meets The Strangers home-invasion war is ridiculously entertaining, offering up a solid forty minutes of zany, gruesome fun. The film endures its pacing stumble towards the battle’s climax, with a sledging chase scene that a) goes on for way too long and b) isn’t quite as funny as the writers think it is.

The film leans into its own silliness, satirising hyper-violent thrillers with Molotov cocktails crafted from baubles, cop-blending snowmobile engines and an army of enraged elves carrying legitimate Glock pistols. The occasionally predictable plot isn’t anything special, with the story taking a backseat to its own outlandish chaos. Similarly, we’re not overcome with joy when the family survives their Christmas ordeal, as there was never any doubt that they would.

The one-liners are clever, predominantly hinging on the astute ‘Americans are stupid’ punchline that will never get old. The constant comedy doesn’t undermine the terror either, with an incredibly effective score by Lasse Enersen generating buckets of suspense. The opening theme is a great example, with merry jingle bells undercut by low droning in a sort of camp version of ‘Can you hear the music?’ from Ludwig Göransson’s score for Oppenheimer.

The four leads are surprisingly fleshed out, albeit occasionally veering into the predictable stereotyping necessary to generate laughs. The cheesy bonding of a previously fractured family is a necessary evil of the Christmas film, despite feeling a little tacked on within the main story. Calle Larsen, sitting comfortably between a loveable loser and a Hårga cult member, is so funny as a quirky museum owner that we don’t even mind his bloated exposition monologues. And boy, are there a lot of them.

Occasionally, the film feels a little cookie-cutter in its plot and characters, but the clever balancing of festive gore and sharp comedy definitely makes it worth your time. There’s Something in the Barn isn’t a trailblazer by anyone’s standards, but this punchy black comedy is a solid stocking filler for horror lovers.


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