One of the aspects that hinders Magnus Marten’s “There’s Something in the Barn” from being a real home run of a movie is that it never quite decides what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a horror movie, sometimes it is fantasy, sometimes it’s just downright comedy, and it builds up this intricate universe with not a lot of explanation or extrapolation. “There’s Something in the Barn” could be good. It could be “Krampus” good, but it leans so much toward this fish out of water comedy that it loses sight of the whole premise involving killer elves, and this weird pact that is never fully explored or fleshed out.
Bill just moved his entire family in to the middle of Norway after inheriting a house and old barn from his uncle. Hoping to build his own bed and breakfast, the family has a hard time adjusting, including son Lucas. Things get crazy when Lucas learns of the existence of elves, particularly a barn elf that resides on their land. Learning about particular rules and guidelines owners must abide by Lucas seeks to make peace with the elf. But when circumstances spiral out of control, the new residents face terrible consequences.
I like Martin Starr a lot and I really enjoyed the premise for “There’s Something in the Barn” but so much of it is build up and build up and build up. Once it finally explodes in to a flurry of blood and carnage, it feels much too little, much too late. Plus Magnus Marten can never really be sure whether he’s trying to take this whole Norwegian backdrop and play it for satire or paint it as this magical misunderstood landscape. One thing that bugged me is there’s not a ton of exploration on the whole idea of barn elves. Does every house in Norway have a barn elf?
Are there just certain people that have barn elves? Do houses have their own unique elves like cupboard elves, or basement elves? Where do the elves come from? Why do they regroup around one small self contained hut city and nowhere else? Who started this whole pact between elves and humans? When did it start and what happens if and when the humans tick off the elves? Does someone assign the elves? And why does the barn elf in the film only appear to the son and mainly the son? Nevertheless, I like the whole idea of what they’re going for, but often times Magnus Marten just seemed to be treading over material we’d seen tackled in better films and even TV shows.
The elves are never depicted as bad or good per se, just more like wildlife that has to be cooperated with. In either case, the performances are good, especially by Martin Starr who is fun as the inept dad struggling to restart his life in Norway with his family. “There’s Something in the Barn” is an okay diversion but it falters a lot due to its confused tone, and frustrating narrative.
Available in UK Cinemas & Digital Download on December 1st.