Troll Hunter (2010)

In true mockumentary form, the absurd concepts solidify into a wonderful story about Trolls and their continued existence in Norway, treated with a seriousness by Ovredal and the cast that is infectious as it is effective.

Usually, the Fantastic Fest Special Screenings are a mixed bag.  Every year, we have no idea what the Alamo Drafthouse will be showing and every time something different is chosen, to much controversy.  From the extremely poor (Persepolis and Never Let Me Go) to the outstanding (Big Man Japan, I Saw the Devil and Helldriver), the Secret Screenings are a mixed bag to be sure.  It’s always a pleasure when something you know very little about comes across your plate and last year’s Troll Hunter was that movie.  Just finishing it’s theatrical release and due any day now on DVD (Aug. 23), Troll Hunter is that rare movie that I recommended that several of my friends went and saw theatrically and truly enjoyed.  I had a chance to see this film yet again and figured now would be the perfect time to turn you all on to a movie you may not have heard much about but will soon, I assure you.

Filmed entirely in Norway, Troll Hunter is essentially a documentary consisting of hours of “found footage,” much like The Blair Witch Project, except this is a good movie.  A group of college students are investigating a series of purported bear attacks in an area not known for it’s bear activity.  As the investigation deepens, the students discover that a bear would not have attacked in such a manner and strange men have been hanging about the area, including one man who claims to be a hunter and obviously isn’t.  The students, intrigued by this mystery, begin to follow the hunter, who only goes out at night and refuses all contact with our intrepid film crew.  So, as any good documentary crew would do, they follow him on one of his nightly excursions into the middle of nowhere, only to spy him running back toward them full speed yelling “Troll!”  Yep, turns out that Trolls not only exist in Norway but they are responsible for the killings and our hunter is no normal hunter: he hunts Trolls.  Not the fuzzy headed little guys we use as key chains but huge monsters that love the taste of human flesh and attack Christians!  The students gain the trust of the Troll Hunter and join his band and what follows is a documentary about this Troll Hunter and why he does what he does, with the focus on all the bad-ass Trolls.

Now, as we know, there are differences between the huge Trolls of this movie and the fairy tales we’ve all heard growing up and director Andre Ovredal has a lot of fun with the legends of Trolls and the “reality” of his Trolls.  There are many different types of Troll, most all of which are explored in this documentary, and half the fun of this movie is exploring the differences between “legend” and “fact.”  For instance, Trolls historically live under bridges and Ovredal has some fun with the bridge living Troll, utilizing goats tied to a bridge to get that kind of Troll’s attention so the Hunter can deliver a blood test.  It turns out that the Norwegian government has known about Trolls for quite some time and have devised an system of power lines to keep the Trolls in an underpopulated area.  The reason the Troll Hunter exists is to keep the Trolls in check and prevent any escapees from wreaking havoc and that’s what’s happening during the course of the film.  Trolls that have caught a form of rabies have found a way out and are terrorizing the countryside.  The whole bear gimmick is to keep the real knowledge away from the public.  The Troll Hunter decided to allow these students to film his story because he’s the only one of his kind in Norway and frankly, he’s getting sick of the job.  Underpaid, no time off, no union representation and he’s decided to use the student’s film for leverage.

The pacing of the film is excellent.  The first half-hour, where we meet the team and get an inkling that all is not right in Norway is the only slow part of the film.   As soon as the Troll Hunter (marvelously played by Otto Jespersen) shows up, the movie moves quickly toward the climax of the film, all the while filled with wonderful shots of the Norwegian countryside and chock-full of informative information about the “reality” of Trolls.  In true mockumentary form, the absurd concepts solidify into a wonderful story about Trolls and their continued existence in Norway, treated with a seriousness by Ovredal and the cast that is infectious as it is effective.  His new mythology is extremely well-thought out and the Trolls themselves look bad-ass.  The whole idea that the Troll Bureau is an under-staffed and under-budgeted Government afterthought is hysterical and counterpoints every other conspiracy film excellently and Ovredal expertly utilizes the frustrations of the Troll Hunter, as well as other members of the “team,” to great effect.  The movie is much funnier than the deadpan way it is displayed and it is that straddling of the line which elevates Troll Hunter from the mire of Blair Witch and Cloverfields out there, creating a genuinely fun experience with little to complain about.

The biggest complaint, of course, will be the use of “shaky cam,” over-utilized in Blair Witch and utterly ruining the already garbage Seventh Moon, but Troll Hunter doesn’t make the mistake of using this element as a crutch; indeed, it’s the best use of shaky cam I have seen yet in a film.  It’s not dominant but occasionally, the students have to run and the minor sporadic uses add more realism to the documentary than detracting from it.  The other minor quibble I have heard is about the ending of the film and, rather than spoil anything, I will leave that criticism up to you, dear reader, yet I was satisfied as a whole with the film and I have no doubt our savvy readers will not notice much amiss either.  The acting is solid, the movie flows, the Trolls are awesome, the scenery of Norway is impressive and the story is plain fun.

I encourage you to check out Troll Hunter when it makes it’s alleged DVD debut in August.  It is a fun, smart movie that is as entertaining as all get out.  Andre Ovredal has created an enjoyable modern mythological film that does everything right and still provides a marvelously good time.  He is also one heck of a nice guy and I, for one, cannot wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve for his next feature.  Give Troll Hunter a watch.  You won’t be disappointed.

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