‘There’s Something In The Barn’ Review: Holiday Horror for Beginners

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There's Something In The Barn (2023) © 74 Entertainment

An American family seeks to escape the rat race in time for Christmas using that good old fashioned fallback: moving to and gentrifying a beautiful and unspoiled part of the world. But their Nordic fantasy becomes a nightmare when the sinister presence lurking in their barn takes issue with their plans to modernise.

★★★☆☆

Christmas horror is not a new phenomenon. Ever since the fateful day in 1974 that Black Christmas was released, there’s been no shortage of festive features to keep us screaming all through the season. From killer Santas in Silent Night, Deadly Night, to evil little monsters in Gremlins and even possessed gingerbread men in The Gingerdead Man, winter horror movies are now a well-established subgenre for those audiences with slightly less… jolly tastes. Magnus Martens’ There’s Something in the Barn enters the arena as a worthwhile and entertaining new entry. It falls more on the silly side rather than the tense or truly gruesome, making it perfect for impressing your teenage cousins over the holiday season without actively traumatising them. 

When Bill (Martin Starr) suddenly inherits a beautiful home in the Norwegian countryside under mysterious circumstances, he jumps at the chance to relocate with his children Nora (Zoe Winther-Hansen) and Lucas (Townes Bunner) and rediscover his roots, as his family once emigrated from Norway to America. And right on time for the holidays, too! Nora and Lucas’ stepmother Carol (Amrita Acharia) also has big plans: she is going to renovate the barn and turn it into an Airbnb. But their vision of a winter wonderland comes crumbling down as the guardian of their farm—a barn elf, or nisse—is increasingly offended with the family’s lights, noise, and changes to tradition. Lucas must fight to keep the peace with a barn elf that no one else seems to believe in, or face the horrific consequences.

This is a fun festive horror ride, with good cinematography, a great score, and wonderful creature design. There are some truly unmissable elf moments in this, with a leading performance from Kiran Shah, also known for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The nisse are ferocious, adorable, and chaotic in turn, channelling the wildness of their cinematic gremlin predecessors. But their reign of terror is relatively tame and bloodless, which may be a relief to some and a disappointment to others.

There’s Something In The Barn (2023) © 74 Entertainment

Bunner promises to be a great talent, with a script that lets him shine. He offers one of the best performances in the film, along with the supporting Norwegian cast who provide coy observations on Norwegians and Americans alike.

However, although the plot is engaging the dialogue is cliched, and our connection to the pioneering American family is limited because of this. Most distractingly, the film is not well paced, and as a result ends up feeling a good deal longer than its tight 100 minute runtime. It also lacks any significant sense of tension or danger, unlike Christmas thrillers such as Gremlins or even Home Alone, which manage to be suspenseful as well as camp and fun.

There’s Something In The Barn (2023) © 74 Entertainment

Nevertheless, the moments of unbridled, gleeful elf chaos are enough to make this movie worth your time. Although There’s Something on the Barn verges on the safer side of holiday horror viewing, it packs enough of a punch for audiences looking to dip their toes in more frightening festive fare.

The Verdict

There’s Something in the Barn is an entertaining winter horror adventure, with just enough thrills to justify cuddling closer to that special someone by the fire, but not quite so many that it will interrupt your dreams of sugarplums. A fun and silly Christmas cracker. 

Words by Eli Dolliver


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