11-year-olds Louise and Maria make friends at a Christian summer camp. When a new girl arrives, Louise and Maria are asked to take extra care of her, but they soon realize she is different. They conclude she must be possessed by Satan.
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Directed by Thea Hvistendahl
“Throughout history, people have blamed the devil for things they don’t understand or can’t accept. Be it a disability, overt sexuality, or simply not conforming to the status quo, Satan has been made the culprit. Unsurprisingly, women have always been intertwined within this wicked narrative because in patriarchal or devout religious thinking, they are to be feared. Having an understanding of this long, complicated history is perhaps what makes Thea Hvistendahl’s short horror Satan’s Barn so enthralling. The Norwegian filmmaker, who was featured on S/W back in November for her edgy coming-of-age short Virgins4lyfe, is back with another stylish exploration of girlhood that’s rich in the occult.
Written by Hvistendahl and her writing partner, Sofia Lersol Lund, Satan’s Barn proves that little girls, even 11-year-olds Louise and Maria, can be warped by evil if left unsupervised. Set against the backdrop of an isolated Christian summer camp, the film explores what happens when we’re taught too many things are sinful. When a strange, mute girl suddenly joins camp, Louise and Maria assume that she’s possessed by Satan and they must ward her off. As the two girls escalate each other’s unease, it becomes clear just how dangerous fear can be when left unchecked.
Seamlessly blending reality with fantasy, Hvistendahl wows with her prolific visual direction that stylishly flirts with evil. Injecting striking images of fires burning, little girls floating, and flashes of a neon cross, Hvistendahl toys with our perception of events. To Louise and Maria, witnessing the “weird” girl having a seizure or catching two female camp counselors engaging in a sexual act is proof of the devil because they go against the bible’s teachings. Of course, having a mental disability or being homosexual is far from evil, but Hvistendahl wants her audience to get into Louise and Maria’s headspace. So while we see these moments transpire, Hvistendahl incorporates demonic imagery and subtle visual effects (the centipede crawling out of the mute girl’s nose really shook me) to incite our unease until we’re not sure what’s real and what’s not. With truly stunning cinematography, the film was shot on 16mm on the western coast of Norway.
While thematically, Satan’s Barn offers a cynical commentary on religion, it also explores what it means, or rather what it takes, to feel accepted. “For me it is really about the need to belong and how essential that is for humans, to the point where we would thrash our morals and thoughts, just to be able to stay inside a group. It’s very fascinating how our brains can so easily transform and mess with our minds,” Hvistendahl tells S/W, “In this case, the fear and fantasy trigger each other to a point where the game goes too far.” In more ways than one, Louise and Maria need something to hold their fragile friendship together, for these two girls, their fear of evil is what binds them. “In this film I really wanted to portray how their friendship evolves and grows closer the more sure they get that Satan is there,” explains Hvistendahl.” – S/W Curator Chelsea Lupkin
Music by Ole Ulvik Rokseth
Cinematography by Andreas Johannessen
Film Editing by Trude Lirhus
Colorist Nicke Cantarelli
Production Design by Maria Naomi Disch
Set Decoration by Camilla Sofie Hugstmyr, Lars-Martin Vågseter
Makeup Artist Christine Varden
Production Manager Veronica Natvig
Script supervisor Bendik Mondal
Prop dresser Camilla Sofie Hugstmyr
Sound recordist Helge Bodøgaard
Sound effects editor Matias Frøystad
Sound designer / sound editor Johan Rasmus Pram
Visual Effects supervisor Otto Thorbjørnsen
Stunt coordinator Stian Kirsebom Andersen
First assistant camera Mads Hoppe
Lighting technician Sindre Lien Rildå
Gaffer Theresa Winkelmann
Casting Luise Nes
Costume designer Miriam Lien
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.