There’s Something in the Barn Ending, Explained: What Happens to the Nordheim Family?

‘There’s Something in the Barn’ is a thrilling fantasy horror feature directed by Magnus Martens that takes its audience through a frightening yet humorous tale set in a Norwegian winter wonderland. Mertens, known for his action flicks ‘Jackpot’ from 2011 and more recently ‘SAS: Red Notice’ in 2021, may have ventured into an unrehearsed space; however, this film proves to be an adept induction into the genre.

Premiered in 2023, the film doesn’t hold back on moments of exhilaration and terror while being equipped with a bunch of laughs to balance things out. Despite having a moderate pace and sound structure, the film’s fantasy elements and unresolved outcomes may leave viewers with a few queries in the end, especially about the elf. SPOILERS AHEAD

There’s Something in the Barn Plot Synopsis

The film follows Bill Nordheim, his wife Carol, daughter Nora, and son Lucas as they move into a remote house in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, which he inherited from his late uncle. Bill seizes this opportunity to fulfill a long-lost ancestral dream, to return to their homeland. Along with the old house, the family inherits an old, peculiar barn that has its own set of secrets.

As they move in, the family struggles to adjust to their new surroundings. As they settle in, Lucas discovers a mythical elf of Norwegian folklore, or what the locals call “nisse,” living in the barn. According to legends, these elves will stay docile if not provoked. The family decides to celebrate a loud and bright Christmas, which enrages the creature. Now, the elf will try to do anything to get rid of them.

What was the Reason for the Elf’s Anger?

Three crucial concerns that cannot be tolerated by the elf are loud noises, bright lights, and changes that the elf is continuously subjected to when the Nordheim Family arrives. For starters, their very arrival triggers one of the elf’s concerns – change. This is temporarily mitigated by Lucas, who is friendly enough to approach the elf in the barn with some food.

For the next couple of days, the elf, under the impression that the family isn’t as bad as they seem, helps around the house. He first clears the snow from the driveway and later chops firewood for them, seeing Bill struggle with it. However, things begin to drastically change when Bill sets up the house’s outdoor area with lights and an inflatable talking Santa. Annoyed by the lights, sounds, and changes, the elf tears down their decorations. Lucas knows it is the elf’s doing and warns his family, but they do not believe him.

Unaware that their previous actions were a warning, Bill and Carol decide to get to know the locals by hosting a Christmas party in the barn. Festively, the party has loud music, a bunch of lights, and many people. This turns out to be a successful night but a grave mistake on the family’s part, as the disturbed elf now resorts to wreaking havoc inside their home. The family is perplexed at the situation and calls the authorities, but Liv, the police officer, thinks they had too much to drink and dismisses the claim of any crime.

Things go downhill as Bill reveals to his wife that his uncle passed away in a freak accident. Carol now believes that the house is haunted and that the strange incidents that have occurred are signs that his uncle’s ghost is roaming the halls of their home. Frustrated with all that’s happened in the past few days, the family sits down to a calm dinner, where Bill introduces them to a local Norwegian delicacy of fermented fish. Unable to eat the food, Carol storms off in an enraged tantrum as the rest couldn’t eat the food either. Lucas, being the kind soul he is, takes the leftovers and leaves them in the barn for the elf. Even the elf is unable to eat the strange food and gets enraged even further, and this time, his plans turn out to be more lethal.

Raymond, a local, shows up at their home in a Santa Claus outfit to surprise the kids with presents. He sees the elf and thinks he’s Lucas instead. Raymond approaches the elf, who then brutally kills him with an ice spike and hangs his corpse from the side roof of the barn. Bill, who had tasked Raymond with the surprise, walks out of the house expecting his arrival. He sees his body and, in sheer shock, rounds up the kids and his wife to immediately get to the car. The family here, for the first time, encounters the elf in person. They finally begin to believe Lucas’s claims.

Throughout the film, the Nordheims time and again partook in the three most intolerable concerns of the elf, which enraged him to the point of no return. Despite Lucas’s kind gestures to him, it only slightly postponed the wrath of the elf’s anger. The very fact that they moved into the house, coupled with the festivities of the season, caused the elf’s anger. One can only imagine how dreadful it could have been if Lucas’s curiosity hadn’t stretched out a hand in friendship with the elf: the Nordheims could not have survived, eventually bringing peace to the elf and horror to the neighboring townsfolk.

Do the Nordheims Leave Their House?

After their battle with the elf clan, the Nordheim family comes out victorious, fending off the elves from the property. The elves have caused enough destruction to the house and killed two innocent people: police officer Liv and Raymond, a local who was to surprise the family, bearing gifts in a Santa Claus costume. They also release Tor Åge, who was shot but miraculously survived during the fight. He claims to have negotiated with the elves on a ceasefire.

The elf who saved the family now looks with grief at his home being burned to the ground. Lucas suggests that they allow the elf to stay with them, but his stepmother Carol doubts that’s a good idea, reasoning with him that if the family stays there, it will only end up enraging the elf even more. The film here loosely confirms that they will not be staying at this residence but doesn’t necessarily confirm they will be moving back to the United States.

Apart from this, there is no major indication of what the family intends to do after the events of the film. With the confirmation of their exit from the property, two scenarios for the family’s future are born. One is that they remain in Norway but move out of that house and continue to fulfill Bill’s dream of living in his ancestral country. The other is that they return to the United States and resume life in a more familiar setting. From the two scenarios, the latter is more likely, as their outlandish experience in their Norway home would have potentially left behind some deep-seated trauma.

In all likelihood, Bill, despite knowing Norway is a very safe country to live in, would have taken his family back, considering the progressive backlash he gets from them for moving to his ancestral home in the first place. During the elf attack, Bill and his family lock themselves in a bedroom, and Bill takes the opportunity to apologize to them regarding the move, claiming that the entire situation is his fault. In this instance, Bill himself believes that he let his family down and, in turn, would do anything to keep them happy and safe. He knows Carol, Nora, and Lucas will have a hard time in Norway, further pushing his decision to move back to the United States.

What Happens to the Elf?

As the elf, or as the locals call them, “Nisse,” who saved the Nordheim family, watches his home ignited in flames, he feels a deep sadness. Knowing that he won’t have anywhere to live, Tor Åge sympathizes with the elf and invites him to live in the outdoor elf museum he set up in town. With solitude and peace being the most defining characteristics of the exhibit, Tor Åge knows that the elf will be alright there. Lucas asks Tor to promise that he’ll take care of the elf, to which Tor says it’ll be an honor to do so. The family says their goodbyes, and the movie cuts to the closing scene.

The three biggest issues the elf cannot tolerate are loud noises, bright lights, and changes, which the exhibit, fittingly called “Nisseland,” seemingly didn’t have. It additionally never has many visitors. Lucas is one of the few who did when the family first visited the town center. Here, he’s introduced to Åge for the first time, who runs the outdoor installation and tells him the story of the barn elf. Lucas is also introduced to the elf’s three dislikes here.

The same exhibit would serve as an ideal home for the elf. The locals wouldn’t notice the elf among the replicas placed in the installation, giving him a perfect spot to hide. The exhibition’s decorations and measurements perfectly accommodate the elf’s stature. Tor Åge, who is fascinated by history and culture, would be captivated by the elf. In pursuit of learning more about the elf and his kind, Tor Åge would ensure his well-being and safety.

In the end, the film implies that Tor Åge takes care of the elf, and in turn, the elf takes care of the outdoor museum. After all, “Nisseland” was built as an imitation elf settlement, as the name suggests. As long as Tor doesn’t do anything rash, the elf will most likely be just fine, enjoying his new home’s peace and serenity.

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