Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s latest release, There’s Something in the Barn can be best described as Gremlins meets Home Alone meets National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
It’s a holiday film with humor, mixed with a twist in the form of killer barn elves. Directed by Magnus Martens, the official synopsis reads: Bill (Martin Starr) moves his American family to Norway after inheriting a remote estate with the intentions of turning the adjoining barn into a bed and breakfast. Struggling to adjust to their new Scandinavian lifestyle, the family disturbs an unexpected resident: a mischievous barn elf who will go to deadly lengths to drive the family away.
THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE BARN – Official Trailer (HD)www.youtube.com
Whether it be written or unspoken, every genre in film has a set of guidelines it usually follows. So when a film, like There’s Something in the Barn, has many different genres blended together, those rulebooks can be thrown out the door, ultimately allowing for more experimentation. This applies to every aspect of the film, including the film’s cinematography, production design and score.
There’s Something in the Barn composer Lasse Enersen greatly welcomed this experimentation and did everything from create his own orchestral version of “Deck the Halls” to use an Indonesian angklung and an out of tune kantele for the film’s horror scenes. Lasse talks about this and much more in the below interview.
There’s Something in the Barn is now available on VOD.
Lasse EnersenLaura Malmivaara
No Film School: How did you first get involved with There’s Something in the Barn?
Lasse Enersen: The Finnish producer, Aleksi Hyvarinen (The Twin), called me and asked if I was interested in reading a Norwegian script about Christmas elves attacking an American family who has moved to Norway. I also saw a concept art image where a Christmas elf is holding a bloody saw and looking out from the barn into a Christmas decorated house. I absolutely love a simple idea like that. You can almost see the movie already in your mind, which I think makes for good stories. I read the script and it had a very classic 80’s films vibe, which is when I watched my first movies as a kid, so I felt very much at home. What struck me most while reading was that this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. After talking with the director Magnus Martens, he asked me to write a score that is part horror, part ancient Norwegian folk music, part comedy and part classic Hollywood Christmas movie. I got giddy about the prospect and super inspired, but at the same time I knew this was going to be a real challenge putting all these things together in a holistic way that makes sense.
NFS: There’s Something in the Barn takes place in Norway with Norwegian folklore playing a big part in the story. Did you incorporate any authentic Norwegian sounds into the score? If so, how did you learn about those?
Enersen: Yes, Magnus specifically wanted me to write with a Hardanger violin and a Nyckelharpa, which were to represent the barn elves’ ancient Norwegian roots. For those two string instruments I wrote music that sounded like something I’d imagine folk music could have sounded like 500 years ago. Archaic and dark. I had written with a Hardanger violin a couple of times before, but Nyckelharpa was a new one for me. Luckily, I found one I could rent, and learned to play it. Me playing badly actually fit the whole archaic and dark style I was after, so there’s a lot of me playing in the score.
'There’s Something in the Barn'MovieScore Media
NFS: There’s Something in the Barn falls into multiple genres. The approach to a comedy is pretty different than the approach to a horror film. How did you find the balance between the two?
Enersen: This was challenging, and something that was a work in progress in the editing as well. They had shot a lot of different sort of stuff, because they knew they would have to find the balance in the editing room. So there was way more gory stuff that didn’t end up in film, as well as a lot of more comedy scenes too. I did the same with music, and just by writing a lot of material, we were able to try different things together until we found a style that felt natural to the movie. Luckily, the film is so tongue-in-cheek that it actually allows to move stylistically from goofy to terror in a blink of an eye. The sharp contrast itself made for some good comedy.
NFS: Do you find that certain instruments are paired better with certain genres? Do you use instruments with the horror genre that you wouldn’t use when creating comedy tracks?
Enersen: Yes, there are always these cliche things like pizzicato strings in comedy films, or atonal music in horror films, but I think most important is to understand why these things work and then try to provide the same thing with some new ideas. For instance, the reason why atonal post modernistic classical music works with horror is that it provides a sense of otherness - it is alien to most people. We fear things we don’t understand. And if you think in this way, you could come up with other things than sound very alien, for instance I used an Indonesian angklung a lot in this score. There is nothing in this world that sounds like it, and it can be quite effective in horror scenes.
NFS: There’s Something in the Barn also takes place at Christmas. How much did you incorporate those 2 genres previously mentioned with holiday music?
Enersen: In the very first cue, I used an old Norwegian children’s Christmas tune from the 1800’s with sleigh bells, but very slowly and turned from major to minor key, and used very twisted instrumentation. It is like Christmas gone rotten and rancid. I used sleigh bells a lot, but not in a joyful way they are usually used, but ominously. This sort of stuff was very fun. There are also very joyful Christmassy tunes I did, that are more like a parody of a big Hollywood Christmas movie, and those were super fun to write as well. There’s also a scene where the elves get hit in the head with a baseball bat, in a certain rhythm and I was able to write big orchestral version of “Deck The Halls” that went with the same rhythm. Magnus really loved that and I always chuckle when I see that.
NFS: What types of conversations did you have with director Magnus Martens about what the film’s score should sound like? Do you ever add voice manipulations to the tracks?
Enersen: Magnus wanted black heavy metal vibes in certain scenes towards the end. So I recorded myself growling with an accompaniment that was almost satanic, like a rite of sorts. Repetitive and dark. I used my own voice quite a lot to create low drones and growls, to represent the ancient anger of these elves. I manipulated these things heavily with harmonizers and pitch shifters.
There's Something in the Barn - Behind the Sceneswww.youtube.com
NFS: Composers have been known to create unique sounds with “found objects”. Did you do anything like that for this film?
Enersen: Yes, I actually bought a Finnish traditional instrument called a kantele, which is like our version of a dulcimer. I found it in a vintage store and it was of course completely out of tune. I didn’t tune it at all and it was absolutely great for hits and effects in more horror type scenes. I also bowed Styrofoam blocks, which created the most horrendous sounds you’ve ever heard in your life. I always had to use ear protection when I recorded it because the sound goes straight inside your soul and breaks it. I have a Zoom recorder on me at all times, so I’m able to record anything I hear when I’m out and about. I then turn these recordings into sampled instruments and then put into my ever growing collection. I think it is super important for a composer to create their own sounds that no one else has.
NFS: Where did you get inspiration for the There’s Something in the Barn score? Did you rewatch any particular movies?
Enersen: I did watch Gremlins and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but didn’t really get influenced from those two. I also watched Home Alone and analyzed the score from a comedic point of view, most importantly the timings, which is absolutely the most important thing in comedy music writing. To know when to write and when not. For instance, you never score the punchline. You stop the music right there and continue after it. You can learn so much from John Williams about absolutely everything. I once did a harmonic analysis of the first scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I was shocked how intricate and smart it was. It was like Stravinsky level writing that he probably wrote in a day.
NFS: Did you lean towards one instrument more than others for this film?
Enersen: I think I used low woodwinds the most in this film. They just felt right when seeing these elves doing terrible stuff. Low woodwinds can sound comedic and dark at the same time, so that was perfect.
'There’s Something in the Barn'MovieScore Media
NFS: How was There’s Something in the Barn different from previous films you have worked on?
Enersen: I’ve written many horror and comedy scenes before, but never put those two together, so that balancing act and just straight up jamming two conflicting things together by force almost, was completely new for me. This was also my first time working with Norwegian filmmakers, which was super fun. Although very professional and good at what they do, they are also quite irreverent and absurdistic in their approach, and don’t take themselves too seriously. Very refreshing!
You can learn more about Lasse Enersen here: http://www.lasseenersen.com/
There’s Something in the Barn score is available now from MovieScore Media.