Fans of Violent Night, Rare Exports, and Krampus are going to lose their minds over There’s Something in the Barn. This horror-comedy offers gore and laughter in equal measure, and most of it takes place on Christmas Eve. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few souls out there put it on their annual yuletide watch list. The movie was a highlight of the 2023 edition of Fantastic Fest.
Bill (Martin Starr) moves his kids Nora (Zoe Winter-Hansen) and Lucas (Townes Bunner) and his new-ish wife Carol (Amrita Acharia) to Norway, where he’s inherited his late uncle’s estate. The teens, in particular, are none too happy about leaving America. Norway is cold and snowy, the internet sucks, and the quaint town offers little in the way of activity. Lucas discovers a mythical “barn elf” inside the barn. He asks one of the locals about it and is given a warning that the elves dislike bright lights and loud music. They also oppose any kind of change to their dwelling. The family succeeds in breaking all three of these rules, leading the elf and his cohorts to violently terrorize them.
The first two-thirds of There’s Something in the Barn lean on comedy, as the clan struggles to get established in a new country. They encounter an angry moose, try to win the approval of the townsfolk, and deal with the quirky sheriff, who doesn’t seem particularly invested in the idea of law and order. At times, humor is generated from cultural differences. Bill, for example, wants to obtain a pistol to protect himself, only to repeatedly be told that “this isn’t America” and people in Norway “don’t go around shooting each other in the head.”
The final third goes full-on bonkers, with a deranged assault on the family and anyone who tries to help them. The elves are violent, yet also hilariously dumb in spots. (After obtaining a gun, one of them looks directly down the barrel, despite having just fatally shot one of his buddies.) Crashing through windows and plummeting down the chimney, they’re like garden gnome-ish Energizer bunnies that never run out of energy. Bill and the others must find unique ways to fight back, such as turning Christmas tree balls into bombs.
The actors playing the elves deserve a lot of credit. Without dialogue, they create a pack of lunatics who are comically malicious. Outstanding make-up effects give them a distinctly nasty look that befits the chaos they create. Everyone else is good, as well. Starr and his colleagues bring a fun dynamic to the family, showing how their attitudes toward Norway change the longer their ordeal goes on.
There’s Something in the Barn made me laugh a lot, and one scene even made me jump. You can tell the people who made it took great delight in devising the insane mayhem that fills the story. The movie is a great big Christmas present for viewers who like a dose of blood and gore with their eggnog.
out of four
There's Something in the Barn is unrated, but contains strong bloody violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.