Every year, there's usually a Christmas movie that isn't your standard festive flick, offering something a little more twisted, albeit hopefully with a nice Christmassy message at the end of it.
In recent years, we've had Anna and the Apocalypse, Silent Night (the Keira Knightley one, not the Joel Kinnaman one), Grinch horror The Mean One and Violent Night. This year's best offering for those fancying a darker Christmas movie is There's Something in the Barn, starring Martin Starr and Amrita Acharia.
The setup sees an American family move to Norway, having inherited a remote cabin from a distant relative. They plan to refurbish the barn into a B&B, but they didn't account for the barn elf who lives there and really doesn't like change.
If you've ever watched Gremlins and thought, "This would be really good with murderous elves", There's Something in the Barn is the bloody, festive treat for you.
There's Something in the Barn's biggest strength is that it doesn't rush to the elf carnage. Director Magnus Martens and writer Aleksander Kirkwood Brown know that to work as a Christmas movie, the film needs to have heart among the gore.
As such, they spend the movie's opening act establishing the family dynamics and the blossoming friendship between Lucas (Townes Bunner) and the resident barn elf (Kiran Shah). In a very relatable move, the elf — known only as the "Main Elf" — just wants to be left alone, and if the family does that, he'll help them out.
The relationship between Lucas and the elf is similar to that between Elliott and ET or Billy and Gizmo in Gremlins, adding to the retro vibes of There's Something in the Barn. The movie takes that one step further by establishing rules to follow to ensure the elf's happiness in what feels like a homage rather than a rip-off.
Of course, we know those rules will be broken — and once they are, the blood liberally starts to flow. Crucially, though, the movie never makes the Main Elf a true villain and instead brings in an army of ancient elves to do just that, giving the climax a fittingly sweet festive edge.
Before that happens, the second half of There's Something in the Barn is in full horror-comedy mode. There are inventive and bloody kills involving snowmobiles, icicles and more, pitch-black jokes that you'll laugh at despite yourself and, most memorably, a room full of elves drunk on "fun water".
It doesn't all work perfectly, as there's an overdone running gag about US gun culture, as well as an ill-timed joke about the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine. But for the most part, everybody involved knows the movie they're making and pitch it accordingly.
If Richard Curtis's return to the Christmas movie genre with Genie is just too sweet for you, then There's Something in the Barn is here to delight you with the darker side of Christmas.
There's Something in the Barn is out now in UK cinemas and also available to buy digitally from Prime Video, iTunes, Microsoft Store and more.
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