The Troll Hunter
Written and Directed by André Øvredal
Norway has become the new darling of the cult movie world. It joins former darlings South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, and Turkey, but being the darling is a fleeting honor. Every one of those previous darlings have gone through movie quality slumps, and a few are still mired in mediocrity and cult movie fans are forced to watch the films of yesteryear (or in the case of Turkey, who became a darling decades after the films that made it a cult movie powerhouse were thrown in warehouses and forgotten, dig up previously lost/unknown gems of yesteryear).
Norway has an advantage in that there is little preconceived notion of Norway or Norwegian film in America. Had I asked 100 people on the streets about Norway and Norwegian film, people would probably tell me things related to whaling and vikings. That’s assuming people had even heard of Norway, this is America, land of people unable to find America on a map.
So going in on watching Troll Hunter, all I knew was Norwegian film is really hot right now, and this one is the only one of those hot films I had any remote interest in seeing. Yes, I’m too jaded for you, Norway!
Troll Hunter is a found footage film where trolls are real and their existence has been kept secret by the Norwegian government for reasons not explained much in the film. Our heroes are some college kids investigating bear hunters, who stumble across a mysterious man the hunters are unfamiliar with, and the more the follow him the more questions they have. Eventually, we run into a real live troll, who thanks to night vision and running camera work looks far more terrifying than you would think. These are not those big haired naked troll dolls, these are the trolls of legend.
The Troll Hunter Hans feeds us bits and pieces of troll information as we go. There are many species of trolls, various types are rattled off (Mountain trolls and forest trolls, with subgroups including raglefant, tusseladd, rimtusse, dovregubben, and harding if the subtitles are accurate), and hints of ginormous trolls that dwarf other living things.
Part of the reason Troll Hunter works is it is more than just a found footage movie, there is a real mystery going on in addition to the mystery of finding out about the trolls. A mass of trolls have escaped their enclosures, and Hans needs to find out why. It is much more interesting than a bunch of idiots running around New York City trying to find a girl. It also helps that the main filmmakers are likable. Tomas seems like an agreeable fellow who would be fun to and out with, and Johanna conveys more expression with her eyes and not saying anything than most actors do running their mouths non-stop for 90 minutes.
Toll Hunter gives us some pseudo-scientific explanations for some of the trolls’ physiology. Their extra heads are mostly decorations, there is a convoluted explanation for the trolls turning to stone under sunlight or UV light, and a way to combat the trolls’ great sense of smell is to rub yourself in troll stink. But remember, trolls can smell the blood of Christians.
Favorite bits include the suit of armor and giant syringe, the troll hiding under the bridge grabbing at goats, and the weapons of UV light.
Troll Hunter does suffer from a few of the tropes requires of a found footage film. We know the people filming aren’t going to have a happy ending, or else why would the tapes mysteriously show up one day in the mail? As we close in on the end, it becomes apparent Hans knows what it in store for the rest of the gang and makes no effort to save them, only to save himself the haunting images of seeing them dragged away. There is also a lot of running around at night in the woods with night vision and shaky cam, which might make people motion sick were they to watch it in theaters.
A found footage film that manages to be entertaining despite being a found footage film is rare enough, but Troll Hunter goes beyond its roots and makes you believe. Not believe that there are actual trolls, but believe that how everyone reacts in the film is perfectly realistic.
And don’t worry, no trolls were harmed in the making of this film
Rated 8/10 (replacement cameralady, troll scratches, troll urine, rock until you drop!, TST, cartoon troll fun, original cameraman who was delicious, evil bureaucrat)