Troll Hunter (aka Trolljegeren) 2010 Norway
Directed by André Øvredal
Screening at UK cinemas
Warning: There are spoilers, foll-di-roll... and they’re going to eat you for dinner!
Blimey, another one. Three cinema movies in one weekend and two of them, including this one, turn out to be first-person POV pseudomentary “found footage” movies. This one’s pretty amazing though and wins over some of it’s predecessors by introducing a strong dose of tongue-in-cheek humour to the proceedings.
Three students making a film about bear hunters for their college course latch on to a shady character who is a little out of place and start following him around and pestering him. When they follow him into a “prohibited” forest they soon find out, in no uncertain and humorously terrifying terms, that he is a government sanctioned specialist in and hunter of... trolls.
When I saw the first shot bear with its tongue hanging comically out I thought to myself... wow, that looks really fake. What I didn’t realise then was that there is a government conspiracy of hiding the trolls and keeping them in specially “restricted from the public” areas and that the dead bears are imported "plants" so they can pass off accidental troll related human deaths as bear incidents. After a while you realise that the key people in charge of this operation are... well... not very good at their jobs. Which figures I guess. Most people in local government are not very good at their jobs so it does have a ring of truth about it. The only true professional is the troll hunter himself... and he wants the truth about the existence of trolls to be known by the general public at large.
The strength of this movie is that, amidst all the quite broad humour, there is a genuine air of threat and terror when it comes to the trolls themselves. And it’s actually an incredibly hard tightrope act to pull off, especially when the trolls themselves do actually resemble the fairytale troll imagery you have in your head right at this very moment as you read these words. Big, broad muppety looking things which want to make you laugh out loud... except, if the cameraman stops to laugh he’s going to get eaten or worse and so... well, this movie is a bit of a masterpiece because it really does straddle that line very effectively.
It’s got quite a long slow burn at the start where nothing happens much just to build up the atmosphere of the piece and when the genuine trollduggery starts happening, you really feel it. You’ll be running in terror with the cameraman as you laugh at the trolls. The found footage style of the camerawork really does help sell the trolls too. I would imagine if you were seeing these beasts in a more controlled camera environment with slow pans and dollys etc. then you’d have your brain telling you how inappropriate and unrealistic these things look... but because you’re looking at CGI in a camera style which you associate with the hasty. on the fly, quick and dirty recording of reality, the effects kind of sell themselves better in your mind and it’s really easy to believe in these trolls... even when one of them has three heads.
The mixture of the comic and “scarying up” is just amazingly well handled. One scene, for instance, has the troll hunter dressed in some man made armour which looks totally ineffective as he tries to get a blood sample from a troll... baiting the troll up from under a bridge by splashing around a bucket of the “blood of a Christian man”. This is pretty funny and the armour looks useless... but then the scene turns terrifying as the troll knocks the hunter out and tries to eat him but is stymied by the armour.
This really is a great little gem of a low budget horror movie but it also has some slight disappointments. Number one disappointment is that in all these kinds of POV films the movie-makers try to impress you by killing or eating the cameraman at some point in the film and it’s become almost something of a cliché with them now. Troll Hunter is no exception to this and, while it’s nice to get a fresh perspective and be “in on the joke” of the replacement camerawoman not believing in trolls... it is kind of expected now and I wish they’d have done something different with it. Also, there’s a nice little account of a battle between warring factions of trolls and the aftermath of such a battle where thay were all hurling rocks at each other. I would have loved to have seen this battle, or at the very least been witness to a fight between two trolls instead of just teasing the audience with an account of such shenanigans. I guess the budget probably wouldn’t have allowed for that but once that story had been told... I was mentally rubbing my hands together with glee just waiting for it to happen. So was a tad let down that this kind of sequence wasn’t included.
But these very minor grumbles are just that... minor grumbles. There are some great moments in troll hunter, not least of which are when the title character goes to see his (implied) girlfriend who is a vet specialising in troll physiology and you get to hear some really humorous scientific explanations to explain some of the well known mythical facts about trolls (like why sunlight can turn older trolls to stone). Very funny.
I can’t do anything but recommend Troll Hunter as it’s one of the better POV movies of recent years, although it’s true I’m a sucker for watching films shot in this style anyway (even though most of them, this one included, don’t have a proper soundtrack). Better get to watch it before the US remake, which is already planned, manages to completely miss the point and wreck what is a nice little, low budget comedy horror flick. I just hope the original Norwegian team manage to capitalise on this first one with a sequel which actually does show a full scale troll battle. Now that, I’d really like to see.