The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN | The Movie Waffler


There's Something in the Barn review
An American family is terrorised by a psychotic elf when they relocate to Norway.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Magnus Martens

Starring: Martin Starr, Amrita Acharia, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Henriette Steenstrup, Calle Hellevang-Larsen

There's Something in the Barn poster

The wave of Nordic mythology inspired horror-comedies that kicked off in 2010 with Trollhunter and Rare Exports continues with director Magnus Martens' There's Something in the Barn, which also falls into the increasingly popular Christmas horror sub-genre. The mythology drawn on here is that of the "barn elf," a diminutive creature who according to Norwegian folklore, makes his home in a barn and will leave humans alone unless they do something to piss him off.

There's Something in the Barn review

Nobody pisses off Europeans quite like Americans, and so we have an American family at the centre of the movie. Seemingly inspired by the Griswalds of the Vacation series, said family consists of dorky Dad Bill (Martin Starr), his improbably hot wife Carol (Amrita Acharia), prissy teenage daughter Nora (Zoe Winter Hansen) and enthusiastic young son Lucas (Townes Bunner). When Bill's uncle dies in grisly and mysterious circumstances in the prologue, Bill inherits his farmhouse in rural Norway and relocates to the Scandinavian country with his family.

More ho ho ho than horrific, There's Something in the Barn is very much a comedy first, horror movie second. Much of the first half of the movie could be mistaken for a reboot of the Vacation series as Bill and his brood get into various scrapes in their new home while seasonal hits play on the soundtrack. Much of the comedy is generated through the culture clash of loud Americans of a sunny disposition finding themselves surrounded with sour-faced Scandis who need large quantities of alcohol to loosen up. When the horror later kicks in, there are several gags built around the lack of firearms in liberal Europe, with locals constantly explaining "this isn't Detroit" and the like. None of the gags are exactly novel or particularly well written, but a game cast that's fully aware of the sort of movie they're acting in makes it work to a degree. In a rare lead role, Starr makes for a worthy Chevy Chase stand-in, and while they struggle to hide their Norwegian accents, Acharia and Hansen have a good comic rapport with their American co-star.

There's Something in the Barn review

The movie's second half turns into an extended siege set-piece as the barn elf that came with their new home decides he can't hack living within earshot of these annoying yanks. A local tells Lucas early on that there are three things barn elves hate - loud noise, bright lights and change (wait, am I a barn elf?) - and of course Bill upsets the little blighter by erecting a garish display of Christmas lights and motion activated talking inflatable Santas. This leads the elf to turn murderous and summon a bunch of his fellow stunted sociopaths to take back the farmhouse for themselves.

There's some fun to be had watching Bill and his family thrown into this bizarre scenario, having to improvise weaponry from household objects to take on the tiny terrors. But from a horror perspective the film suffers from a distinct lack of tension as we know a movie this light in tone isn't going to actually kill off any of the family members. The tameness of the violence will leave hardcore horror fans wanting, with the few deaths of supporting characters occurring offscreen (there is admittedly a clever match cut involving a cocktail stick and a sausage).

There's Something in the Barn review

With some sharper comedy and a willingness to lean into the sort of splatstick violence its premise seems made for, There's Something in the Barn might earn cult status and become a seasonal horror classic. As it is it's a merely serviceable horror-comedy that will probably function best as a means for horror fans to introduce their kids to the genre.

There's Something in the Barn is in UK cinemas and on VOD from December 1st.

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