Featuring: Amrita Acharia, Townes Bunner, Alexander Karlsen El Younoussi, Calle Hellevang Larsen, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Paul Monaghan, Kiran Shah, Martin Starr, Henriette Steenstrup, Zoe Winther-Hansen
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Director: Magnus Martens
In Cinemas: 1st December 2023
An American family fulfils their dream of returning to their roots after inheriting a remote cabin in the mountains of Norway. But there’s a surprise waiting for them.
There’s Something in the Barn, which is the latest Christmas-themed film to be released ahead of the festive period, but maybe not one for the whole family to sit down to after dinner. When Bill (Martin Starr) inherits a beautiful house from his uncle in Norway’s snowy, picturesque wilderness, he starts a fresh beginning with his family. He makes a move from America along with his partner Carol (Amrita Acharia) with his two kids, Lucas (Townes Bunner), who is the youngest and always has a curious spark to him and his hesitant Daughter Nora (Zoe Winther-Hansen), who is very much against the relocation and forms a negative attitude because of it. When they start to piece their new lives together in the Scandinavian countryside against the backdrop of Christmas, The inquisitive Lucas discovers that a barn elf is living in the family’s shed; at first, frightened, he learns that if he provides the elf with cookies and helps him by reducing noise and bright lights, in return, the elf will return the favour by clearing the icy, snowy driveway and chopping up logs for the fireplace. But when the family decides to make new friends around the community, they host a party in the barn, which will not make the elf particularly joyful.
The main takeaway element from this film is the uniqueness and creativity in developing an equal balance of mayhem and fun. It constantly toys with the idea of Christmas being portrayed in other movies as a happy occasion and consistently debunks it hilariously. There is a great scene where the family decorates the house’s exterior with lights and a giant inflatable Santa Claus with a motion sensor that causes him to sing; much to the elf’s dislike of loud noises and shiny objects, he destroys everything. The following day, except for Luca’s knowledge of the elf, the family are puzzled at what caused the mess. The film never takes itself too seriously; there are always moments of silliness and chaos that make you invested in the more active parts of the movie. The fast-paced madness of chase scenes between elves on a snowmobile throwing saw blades at people, and then in contrast, we see them getting drunk on bottles of spirits and having a tremendous auld time. The more heavy dialogue scenes are always enthralled with snappy, humorous, honest opinions about specific situations or cultural observations. On numerous occasions, there are always these tongue-in-cheek references to traditional Americanism from the Norwegians, putting each country’s different values into perspective.
But when putting the plot and characters to one side, this is a beautifully crafted and almost patriotic love letter to Norway. Beautiful long and appealing wide shots capture winter and nature in a stylish, elegant way, with untouched snow-mountain tops and magnificent visuals. It is almost like an advertisement for Norway’s tourism, and there is so much pride and carefulness when presenting the country on film. Even when exploring the Fjøsnissen (The Barn Elf) through Scandinavian folklore, there is a beautiful scene involving the tradition of rice porridge; the level of detail and chariness is always profound and admiring. There’s Something in the Barn always strives to be different and unpredictable but always seems to have that warm, cosy Christmas charm about it. It never neglects the audience when it sometimes can become a little imbecilic; its constant energetic quality fits well with the cherished tale about the Fjøsnissen, even when it consists of blood and evil little laughs.