There's Something In The Barn

***1/2

Reviewed by: Donald Munro

There's Something In The Barn
"The script is funny and knowing but it wavers between a straight out kids' movie and horror aimed at an older teenage audience."

There’s Something In The Barn is a Norwegian/Finnish Christmas horror comedy. An American nuclear family moves to Norway after inheriting a farmhouse and a barn. Their plan is to turn the barn into a small hotel. The problem is that the barn is inhabited by a fjøsnisse, a barn elf.

After a short prologue the film kicks off with the Nordheim family - Bill the dad (Martin Starr), Carol the stepmom (Amrita Acharia), Nora the teenager (Zoe Winther-Hansen), and Lucas the kid (Townes Bunner) - travelling to their new home. During the car journey they see a road sign warming of elk ahead. They all get out of the car, stand in the middle of the road and start taking selfies with the sign. On spotting an elk calf they try to approach, but the bull elk takes great offence. This ignorance of place and lack of common sense plays out both comically and disastrously throughout the rest of the film.

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On the family's first trip into town, Lucas learns about barn elves and the rules that have to be followed in order to maintain good relations with them. Needless to say, the Nordheims break all the rules. After Bill greedily eats Lucas's peace offering to the fjøsnisse, all hell breaks lose.

Like many a good Christmas movie, this is about a family coming together and overcoming its mild disfunctionality in the face of adversity and bloody violence. Nothing helps bond a stepmom and daughter like being covered in viscera. This is the time of year when they can overcome their problems and make a fresh start in Norway, "a country where nothing bad ever happens."

The script is funny and knowing but it wavers between a straight out kids' movie and horror aimed at an older teenage audience. The direction is the same. The visual portrayal of Americans abroad is nicely done. What brings the film together is the acting. Both parents are well realised and Townes Bunner does a really good job as Lucas. In the background of some scenes, Zoe Winther-Hansen is able to convey a lot about what's going on without drawing the focus to herself. Henriette Steenstrup goes in for a little bit of scene stealing as the local cop.

There is one thing that could curtail the enjoyment of the film. Subtextually There’s Something In The Barn is about the conflict in Palestine that has been going on in one form or another since 1920. Dwarves and goblins have often been used as antisemitic tropes. In this film this has been turned around, with the fjøsnisse representing the Palestinians and the Nordheims the Jewish immigrants. The conflict is mentioned more than once in the script and the Oslo Accords are specifically referenced. By the end of the film, the American family is ensconced in its ancestral home and the last of the barn elves (Kiran Shah), burnt out of its home, agrees to take refuge in a local museum. The film was first shown at Fantastic Fest on the 23rd of September, two weeks before the current round of hostilities. On the 7th of October, Hamas fighters broke out of the besieged Gaza strip and massacred over one thousand people. Israel retaliated by tightening the siege and bombing Gaza, massacring, to date, over 15000.

Reviewed on: 03 Dec 2023
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An American family fulfils their dream of moving back to the old country after inheriting a remote cabin in the mountains of Norway.
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Director: Magnus Martens

Writer: Aleksander Kirkwood Brown

Starring: Martin Starr, Amrita Acharia, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Henriette Steenstrup

Year: 2023

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Norway


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