[Fantastic Fest 2023 Review] THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN

Deck the halls with boughs of terror! Screening at the 2023 Fantastic Fest, THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN serves up a Christmas feast of comedy and gore, garnished with Nordic mythology and spiced with elfin lore. THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN is a well-wrapped gift to fans of the bizarre and the humorous.

In this horror Christmas comedy, the film strikes a harmonious balance between its audaciously absurd elements and its jolly tone. It’s clear from the get-go that this is a film that refuses to take itself too seriously (And that’s a good thing!). Directed by the merry Magnus Martens and written by the witty Aleksander Kirkwood Brown, this horror-comedy sleighs audiences with its yuletide spirit (and sometimes) severed limbs.

This delightful film beautifully blends the ancient Nordic mythology of barn elves with contemporary holiday traditions. The premise is simple yet effective – Bill (played with deadpan charm by Martin Starr) inherits a house in Norway and relocates his family, including his life coach wife (Amrita Acharia) and two kids Lucas (Townes Bunner) and Nora (Zoe Winther-Hansen), after inheriting a remote home. Norway apparently sports the happiest people on Earth, so why not jump at the chance to embrace such a cozy and friendly culture? And on their newly acquired property sits a massive old Barn, which Bill hopes to completely renovate and turn into a luxurious Airbnb. But little do they know, they’re about to have a close encounter of the elfin kind!

The Barn Elf, (or Nisse) is a mythological Nordic creature often associated with Christmas, and Bill’s family is lucky enough to house some of them. These little mythical fellas take care of their people if treated nicely. But if their traditional way of life becomes disrupted by the invasion of modern technology or bright artificial lights, the results can be dangerous. So, a Christmas Vacation level of garish Christmas lights would definitely enrage the Barn Elf.

THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN is definitely a movie of two halves. The first part is more National Lampoons as the father struggles with extravagant gestures in an attempt to make the holiday count. The story thrives on comedic exchanges with quirky characters, including the local police chief (Henriette Steenstrup). But as the snow continues to pile up and assimilation into the new culture seems fruitless, living the Norwegian dream soon becomes an abandoned goal for Bill and his family. The clash of American exuberance with Norwegian stoicism does generate some laughs. However, at some point, the film lingers a bit too long on these culturally awkward moments which hurts the momentum of the film.

While the first part of the film promises merriment and good cheer, the second half takes a much darker turn (but without losing too much humor) as a movie about a happy little elf soon starts to resemble Gremlins. The true star of the show is the Barn Elf and the transition of the creature from cute and frightened to a force of vengeance cannot happen soon enough. Now we have a war on Christmas as Bill and his family must battle the elves so they can keep both the festive spirit and themselves alive. The pristine snow soon becomes a delightful crimson hue as the elves use every festive weapon in their repertoire.

Beneath the chaos and carnage, it’s the film’s absurdist humor that truly shines. The cast clearly relished their roles as they delivered impeccable comedic timing. While the film momentarily loses steam towards the end, the absurdity and humor redeem this bumpy sleigh ride of insanity and entertainment.

In the realm of Christmas horror, THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE BARN emerges as an unexpected present. It unwraps a unique holiday experience, blending merriment with mayhem. While it may stumble in its final horror-filled act, the film delivers on its promise of festive fun. And as you venture into the barn, be prepared for elves, laughs, and gallons of blood. It’s a holiday horror-comedy that’s destined to carve out its own cult classic status.

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