There’s Something In The Barn review | Not a very merry Christmas

there's something in the barn review
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An American family is terrorised by murderous elves in Magnus Martens’ Christmas horror. Here’s our There’s Something In The Barn review. 

It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2023, which means that we are entering that phase of the year where it’s completely acceptable to spend the whole day in your pants, watching an endless stream of Christmas films on Channel 5. Cinemas will also be showing Christmas classics like Elf and The Muppet Christmas Carol, but if you fancy something a little, er, gorier, you’re in luck. 

Magnus Martens’ There’s Something In The Barn is set in the serenity of Norway at Christmas. The Nordheims, led by father Bill (Martin Starr), relocate from America to an idyllic Norwegian village, but struggle to fit in. They are obnoxiously American, with their big Christmas displays and loud parties, but the family’s son Lucas (Townes Bunner) finds an elf in their barn and befriends it. Lucas warns his family that there are strict rules to follow or the elves will be angry, but does his family listen? Obviously not, or There’s Something In The Barn would be much shorter and really dull. 

Martens’ film is like if Gremlins and Unwelcome had a child and taught it comedy from the fifth Scary Movie. The film is arguably at its best when it leans into poking fun at the Americans or when it lets loose with the gore. Unfortunately, these moments are buried beneath a lot of bits that aren’t funny or scary enough to be entertaining. 

From the very beginning, Martens sets the film up as an epic man-vs-nature tale, but never delivers on that promise fully. The family stupidly disturb a baby moose and its large, very angry daddy moose, nearly getting themselves killed, and are told by a local police officer that in Norway they “learn early that if you mess with nature, nature will come back right at you and punch you in the faces”. No, that’s not a typo, she says “faces” because obviously these Norwegians, famously lax with their language skills, don’t speak very good English. Despite the juicy themes running through the film, Martens or his writer Alexander Kirkwood Brown don’t actually manage to find any new insights about them.  

About half-way into the film, I began to notice that I was firmly Team Elf, and was hoping they would slaughter these Americans in some horrible, bloody way sooner rather than later. There’s Something In The Barn makes it difficult to root for the family, who seem very committed to being the worst people on Earth, but Martens also makes you wait for the gore and carnage. When it comes, it is undeniably satisfying, but by then, the film has overstayed its welcome and our patience has worn thin. 

Where Unwelcome managed to make the goblins (or, technically, Red Caps) thoroughly menacing, There’s Something In The Barn never manages to convince us these wrinkly old men are an actual threat to anyone. It seems that one swift kick would send them flying into the nearest fjord, but we’re still expected to believe they’re able to fool and massacre the thinly written characters. 

There's something in the barn martin starr
Credit: Vertigo Releasing

Perhaps the best running joke in the film is the Norwegians’ assumption that Americans are a bit too gun-friendly. “This is not America, we don’t run around and shoot people in their faces and knees all the time,” one character notes. While most jokes only manage to induce a light chuckle, the gun jokes, of which there are plenty, are the cream of the crop. We’ll let you decide what that tells you about There’s Something In The Barn as a whole. 

Ultimately, There’s Something In The Barn fails to be a proper comedy or a horror, landing awkwardly somewhere in between the two genres. The scares come far too late and the jokes lack punch, but the final half hour is rather gleeful with the over-the-top carnage. It’s just too little, too late. 

There’s Something In The Barn is in cinemas 1 December. 

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