Stars:Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg and Knut Nærum
A group of students investigates a series of mysterious bear killings, but learns that there are much more dangerous things going on. They start to follow a mysterious hunter, learning that he is actually a troll hunter.
Andre Ovredal's THE TROLL HUNTER is the definition of unique. A found footage film that combines fear, fairy-tales, action and atmosphere; blending real suspense with some very humorous scenarios. Its a movie aiming to meld documentarian realism to a fantastical story. A travelogue through Middle Earth via the breathtaking landscapes of Norway. A comedic adventure. An old school monster movie, and, finally, a look at belief and wonderment, and the importance of holding onto those feelings.
The film opens in the usual 'found footage' stylee, with a few solemn words silently filling the screen to set the tone. we're informed that the footage is indeed 'found' and that the creators are missing in action. The footage, we're told, is as it was found, in sequence and un-tampered with, (other than being edited down for time, of course), and then, we're off...
Stop me if this all sounds like white dog shit, because we all know this is how every one of these films begins, or at least the vast majority of their ilk do. Yet straight away we notice that this one has a very powerful card up its sleeve. Norway.
THE TROLL HUNTER is an absolutely beautiful looking film. From its very first moments to its last, its a feast for the eyes. We're treated to all manner of Norwegian goodness, ranging from vast mountainous vistas, stunning mystical fjords, idyllic villages and road-stops, snow-swept expanses and dark, ominous pine forests that reach on seemingly forever and a day. For my money, Norway is this films greatest asset.
In many ways, the film plays like a fantasy laced road-trip. It opens with the camera peering out through the rain-lashed window of our protagonists vehicle; capturing the majesty of the land as they travel through its splendor. Get used to this sort of shot, as there are many like it. We spend a great deal of the film riding shotgun with our fearless friends, and most of that time is spent gazing out the window in awe. If this all sounds boring, trust me, it ain't. Frankly, if Ovredal has simply pointed his camera out the window and drove from one side of Norway to the other while singing fucking Viking songs, I'd have been a happy camper. Lets hope there's a three-and-a-half-month extended edition being prepped for home release....
Fear not though..if you lack my somewhat spaced out temperament and don't get a kick out of watching rain fall lazily for ninety minutes, (whats wrong with you!?), your still gonna have a great time with THE TROLL HUNTER. Its works on many levels. For me, it plays best as a demented holiday in a strange land, but its got so much more to offer.
As a monster movie, it struck me as being the very best since THE HOST. Great monster movies are hard to come by these days, (before THE HOST, I have to go all the way back to THE RELIC to find one I truly love. I'm not counting the awesome KING KONG, as its not a horror-crossover in my mind), and while CLOVERFIELD, arguably, tread similar ground in its concept, the results are wildly different.
Ovredal's film dives deep into the mythology of its weird and wonderful beasts, blending well-known legend with some clever new twists on the theme. Its chock full of great stuff. As we travel deeper into the Norwegian wild, we learn, alongside our three film-makers, of the countries secret netherworld of Troll's. Turns out these big ugly bastards have been roaming the lands since time immemorial, and the fairy tales were right....sunlight turns them into pavement, they eat rocks for breakfast, they come in all shapes and sizes and, (and I love this one), they can smell the blood of Christians, and outright hate the buggers. Add to this a healthy dose of Government cover-ups and some kick-ass troll-hunting' tactical maneuvers and you have yourself one hell of an original and fun setup for some man-on-monster action.
The trolls themselves all look great, and manage to avoid crossing into ridiculous territory, despite having many of the characteristics we associate with these weirdo's. They may boast big noses, and even bigger butts, but they still evoke an air of menace, (especially the gentleman who shows up for the films finale). Much of this is down to the handheld filming style keeping the beasts in frame just long enough for us to chew on the visuals without giving away any budgetary restrictions. Don't get me wrong though, this is a far more generous movie with its monsters than CLOVERFIELD was. We do see all of these Hobbit-botherers in all their glory, and often. They just happen to be shot for maximum effect and minimum cost. Its a far, far more visually stunning creature feature than any I can think of since the THE HOST and it gives that film a run for its money as well. In short, if the beautiful scenery don't get ya, the fuck ugly man/rock-eating trolls will.
Another benefit THE TROLL HUNTER has over its closet cousin, is that it has likeable, even lovable characters. Of course, we have the titular 'troll-hunter', Hans. A Nordic bad-ass whose unsung heroism is matched only by his stoicism. Hes a gruff, tough and smelly son of a bitch, yet bears a heart that's heavy with the weight of things he's seen and done. Quietly noble, and often sad, Hans is a more complex soul than we usually find in this sub-genre, (I'm looking at you, Mica, you prick). He's the star of the show, for sure, but the real heart and soul resonate with the younger cast.
There are no high-class new york assholes to be found here, folks. Just three amiable, inquisitive young filmmakers whom its very easy to get behind, not least because we share their heady mixture of fear and excitement as events unfold. The kids do great, and manage to convey a real sense of wonder that's very infectious. Much of the humor comes from the facial expressions of these guys, as they find their modern outlooks clashing with ancient legend, in more and more terrifying and enthralling ways. Its through the filmmakers that THE TROLL HUNTERS themes are expressed also. When the first encounter one of the big beasties, they all but shit themselves, (as you would), yet have a hard time containing their glee at the prospect of such creatures existing. With grins a mile wide, they make the choice to head off in search of legend. Essentially eradicating any links to previous works like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. The scares here are fun. This isn't a dour, depressing look at the inevitability of death, nor a precautionary tale about man venturing where he should not. No, it embraces the idea of dreaming and imagining with arms open wide. Magic is worth searching for, the fairy tales your grandparents told you in bed at night may well be true, and it makes the world a far richer place, to assume so.
THE TROLL HUNTER is a rich film in many area's, and has all the makings of a cult classic. Its only a matter of time before the inevitable shitty American remake, so if you see this one on the shelves, grab it quick, rush home, and spend some time in the misty mountains of Norway for a fun, creepy and gleefully exciting winter break. Brilliance.
Lesson Learned - Loving Jesus will not make you any Troll friends, and could well get you eaten..
8 Dead 'n' Dumped Bears out of 10