The Troll Hunter is one of the current infestation of found footage films, which started with Cannibal Holocaust and was made famous by The Blair Witch Project (which is not as good as the earlier The Last Broadcast). The Troll Hunter was written and filmed in Norway by André Øvredal in 2010. With the recent successes of films such as Paranormal Activity and the Twilight films, the ground was fertile and expectant for this gem. I caught the trailer several months ago and was genuinely looking forward to the cinematic release.
I live in Kent, about 50 miles from London. There are plenty of Odeons, Cineworlds and Vue cinemas across the county, but not a single major cinema or multiplex in Kent showed it. Gutted, I hashtagged! Luckily, one of the local universities has a cinema and thanks to them (@TheGulbenkian) I got to see one of my most anticipated film of the year.
So what is the The Troll Hunter about? There’s a bear poacher in Norway, and three students are off to make a documentary about it. Thus the conceit for the found footage. They find the supposed poacher, Hans, but obviously things aren’t what they seem, despite the corpse of an illegally downed bear. Hans, you see, works for the Troll Security Service. The Norwiegan Government are complicit in the cover up that exists; trolls are real. There’s trouble in them there hills and its down to Hans to sort it out. The students, once they discover the truth, apparently have no choice but to follow Hans to the film’s inevitable conclusion. It seems at times that the film was part funded by the Norwegian Tourist Board. There was shot after shot of Norwegian lakes and mountains. If nothing else, I wanted to take a driving holiday around Norway as a result of this film and I defy anyone not to agree with me.
However, as a piece of movie entertainment, this also highlights the problem with most found footage films. There is an awful lot of set up and distraction without much payback. You find yourself looking at shot after shot of the inside of the vehicle and is that, oh yes, another lake, and for large portions of the film not much happens. What this means is there was a little suspense created, whether deliberately or not. Some of the mythology exposited was that the trolls cannot come out in daylight. Despite that, I kept expecting one to appear out of nowhere while the crew were driving next to yet another lake.
The Troll Hunter has a very odd sense of humour about it, as it is played very straight. Scenes such as the one where Hans dons a suit of armour and carries a giant syringe so he can get a blood sample are hilarious. After all, there’s no other way of putting three billy goats on a bridge in order to trap the troll. This and other set pieces have to be played in this style, or become simply ridiculous. The creatures, again, could appear ludicrous in the wrong hands, but in Øvredal’s, somehow everything works. The characters are a little thin and you don’t really warm to any of the students, although Hans has great lines and scenes. There are some interesting discussions about the created mythology. Apparently, trolls can smell the blood of a Christian. When a Muslim joins the students, how does that impact on the dynamic? And what happens if someone lies about their beliefs?
The Troll Hunter is immense fun and is interesting enough to renew faith in the found footage film. I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in genre film. Be patient with the concept and take pleasure in some glorious cinematography, preparing yourself to want to visit Norway. Enjoy Hans and the trolls, which do have some personality. Laugh, don’t take it too seriously and leave the cinema (if you’re lucky enough to find a cinema to show it) with a smile on your face.
- Hugely entertaining and amusing
- Beautifully shot
- Something a little different
- A little dull in places (found footage format)
- Some thin characterisation