Troll Hunter (2010, André Øvredal)

 Troll Hunter (2010, André Øvredal)I honestly don’t know that many movies with trolls as the main character or monster. I’d even say that besides Troll Hunter the only other such movies I’ve ever seen are probably only the aptly-named Troll and its sequel, the first one of which is probably best remembered for the name of its main character, i.e. Harry Potter (Jr). Or that’s about all I remember about it, anyway, as it wasn’t that good. So can Troll Hunter finally give trolls their fifteen minutes of fame?

Troll Hunter is a Norwegian found footage-movie about three students making a student movie about who’s been illegaly shooting bears throughout Norway. Their search quickly leads them to Hans, a loner who they suspect to be the poacher. At first Hans isn’t very forthcoming and doesn’t want to cooperate but after they’ve shared a dangerous encounter during which one of them got hurt, Hans agrees to be in their movie. He tells them he isn’t hunting bears, though, he’s hunting trolls. It turns out the Norwegian government wants the existence of trolls to be kept quiet but Hans, looking for more recognition and rewards, is willing to blow the lid. The students remain sceptical but keep following and filming Hans nevertheless.

The problem with found footage-movies, I find, is that you already know how things are going to end, obviously. Nothing good is going to happen, otherwise they would not have lost this – usually amazing – footage somewhere for someone else to find. In the case of The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity or even Cloverfield, it kind of works as there aren’t really any other parties that are directly involved which could be asked for accountability or even some simple clarification. This is not the case with Troll Hunter, however, as the government is involved. Without giving all too much away, simply denying they have any knowledge of this particular case, would prove rather difficult in real life, I would think.

That however would be one of Troll Hunter’s only (minor) faults. The effects are simply spectacular. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of CGI-monsters. I think that even now, 20 years after Jurassic Park, most film makers still don’t know how to effectively use CGI. As a result the creatures usually look fake and don’t blend in with the action. I yearn for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to become as popular again as they once used to be. In short, CGI, I don’t like it. But. The crew behind Troll Hunter have managed to seemingly seamlessly blend their creatures with their real footage which makes for some of the most awesome action sequences I’ve seen in a while. It does help of course that this is found footage, so not perfectly framed or lighted, that a lot of the time the creatures are only seen in night vision shots and so on, but what matters to me is that when you see it, you don’t immediately feel that what you’re seeing is fake.

The story is a fun one with some very nice art design and locations. The deserted Norwegian countryside with its vast lakes and mountains all covered in snow are simply beautiful. Hans the troll hunter’s vehicle and trailer certainly reflect his character and his troll drawings and “memorabilia” are very nicely done. Hans is by far the most interesting character, by the way. The students are okay but forgettable, never becoming obnoxious but just there to move the story along mostly. Troll Hunter does presuppose a certain degree of troll knowledge, however. I’m rather sure that the legend of the troll is far better known in Scandinavia than in most other countries (they did bother to make a movie about it, after all) and although I’ve heard about the relationship between trolls and bridges or between trolls and Christians, I did at times feel that I wasn’t really getting certain scenes because of my not knowing quite enough about troll lore. This only happened on 2 or 3 occasions throughout the movie, though, so it’s not like you have to be an expert in the field.

You do have to get past the fact that this is not, in my opinion, a horror movie. It does not set out to scare you. It is rather a fantasy movie in that it tells you a lot about trolls, which are – be it due to circumstances or not – rather unpleasant creatures according to the filmmakers at work here. There are some very spectacular action scenes but no real scare moments. There is quite a bit of bloodshed, though – bears and sheep do get killed – so I wouldn’t automatically recommend it to children but if they’re old enough to watch The Lord Of The Rings, then Troll Hunter shouldn’t be a problem either.

So yes, Troll Hunter is a movie that should please both found footage-fans and creature movie-afficionados. Give it a try, you’ll probably like it.