In recent times, Christmas-themed horror comedies shook up the holiday season with films about evil Santas and the Krampus. Magnus Martens‘ There’s Something in the Barn dares to do something different, though, moving away to focus on creatures from Nordic folklore. In this story, the biggest threat proves to be barn elves. Yes, barn elves. Underestimate them at your own peril, because these elves share more in common with Gremlins than Harry Potter‘s Dobby.
There’s Something in the Barn begins in unintimidating fashion. A family moves from the United States to Norway as they inherit a home in the mountains. On the property lies a cosy and sizable barn that wouldn’t look out of place in Smallville. For Bill (Martin Starr) and his wife Carol (Amrita Acharia), the end goal is to turn the property into an Airbnb; however, there’s a snag in the plan when Bill’s son Lucas (Townes Bunner) discovers an elf (Kiran Shah) lives in the barn.
Lucas also meets a local, who tells him about the legend of the barn elf and their demeanour depends on how they are treated. Lucas tries to follow the three rules (no artificial lights, no loud noises, and no changes to the elves’ home), but Bill doesn’t believe or listen to his son about something in the bard (like the film’s title!). As a result, they suffer the revenge of the elves.
Breaking the rules
Aleksander Kirkwood Brown’s screenplay takes inspiration from Gremlins in the way it sets up the rules of the movie in an easy-to-understand way for the viewer. As long as the characters don’t do anything to disrupt the elves’ way of life, they should be fine and live in harmony. Right? Alas, everyone knows human nature is to press the button that says, “Don’t touch,” so it’s only a matter of time until everything spirals out of control and the catastrophic events kick off.
Martens also brings a touch of director Joe Dante’s approach to There’s Something in the Barn. The reason the film works so well is because of the established rules and the fact everyone in the movie is on the same page about how to treat the material. This isn’t meant to be taken too seriously or even be seen as a scary movie; instead, it’s light-hearted entertainment that sees an elf army go on a rampage against Bill and the family. The third act turns bloody, but it’s done in a playful rather than gross manner – set in the beautiful backdrop of the wintery wonderland of Norway.
No elves on the shelf here
At just under 100 minutes, There’s Something in the Barn doesn’t outstay its welcome either. As soon as the rules are established, the narrative sprints to the conflict, spending a reasonable amount of time seeing the elves’ war against the family. While the revenge sequences carry hilarity, the film holds a surprising amount of heart too. Bunner’s Lucas and Shah’s elf build up a genuine friendship, but their relationship gets tested by everyone else who can’t get along. Their heartfelt moments strengthen the believability of an outrageous story, as they become the standout performers here.
Coupled with the right dose of hilarity, heart, and holiday spirit, There’s Something in the Barn easily slots into the must-watch list for the festive season. Who knew a horror comedy about angry barn elves could become one of the most entertaining films of the year?
There’s Something in the Barn will be available digitally from December 1, 2023.