Christmas horror movies provide the perfect antidote to all the candy-coated festivities of the holiday season and there have been quite a few good ones in the past. We’ve had David Harbour as an axe-wielding Santa in Violent Night, Anna and the Apocalypse brought us a zombie Christmas musical, and who could forget the daddy of them all, Gremlins.
There’s Something In The Barn follows in the footsteps of those movies and takes an innocent Christmas tradition and turns it into a blood-soaked terror. In this case, it’s the Nisse from Norwegian folklore, small gnome-like mythological creatures who guard barns and really, really don’t like it when people mess around with their stuff. Enter stage left an all-American family who have inherited a remote house in the hills, complete with a barn.
Headed up by Bill (Martin Starr) and Carol (Amrita Acharia), the couple have brought two children with them, sulky teenager Nora (Zoe Winter-Hansen), and her younger, curious brother, Lucas (Townes Bunner). Whilst there are formulaic story beats about an American family trying to adapt to new way of life it’s clear all the cast know exactly what sort of movie they are in and play the laughs accordingly. Lucas manages to befriend the single Barn Elf in the barn by feeding him cookies and in return the family find the snow has been cleared from the drive overnight. However, the rest of the family are unaware of their guest and the parent decide to throw a massive party in, you guessed it, the barn.
I think it’s fair to say Gremlins has been a huge influence on this film, from the introduction of the Barn Elf where he seems a cute, loveable creature, to the drunken party echoing the bar scene in Gremlins, there is even a key plot point about serving the mythical creatures food at a very specific time.
From about mid-way through, the film turns into alternating sequences of comedy, horror and some good old-fashioned family bonding, albeit covered in blood. The story rockets along at a great pace with some wonderful running gags and a couple of action pieces. Sadly the budget shows on one of these, a sled chase down a mountain road with the family pursued by circular saw-throwing Nisse, and it ends up looking a bit cheap and obviously done on a green screen. Thankfully, the main fight between all four of the family and a horde of Nisse is great fun with plenty of slapstick moments.
I think the only problem with the film is it’s not entirely sure who it’s aimed at. As it’s set in a remote cabin halfway up a mountain the human cast is limited so there’s only two really bloody kills, and whilst they are gruesome the rest of the film shies away from gore and seems to want to keep things family friendly. This means there are some very obvious and unexplainable changes in Barn Elf behaviour: One moment they are running at top speed and wildly swinging axes in a murderous rampage, the next they quietly shuffle towards the family giving them ample time to climb a ladder. Clearly the little devils could have taken a swipe at any point during this extended sequence and lopped off a limb, but they don’t, because… plot.
While the whole thing is very predictable the ambition and heart of the film are clearly on display. The well observed swipes at both American and Norwegian culture brought plenty of laughter, and supporting cast members Henriette Steenstrup and Calle Hellevang-Larsen really make the most of their limited screen time.
There’s Something In The Barn Movie is an enjoyable and solid addition to the Christmas horror genre. It’s not up there with Krampus or Gremlins but the great performances and many, many laughs mean it’s well worth a watch.
There’s Something In The Barn will hit Cinemas and On Demand on December 1st 2023.