Found footage movies have had their fair share of monsters: we’ve seen zombies in Diary of the Dead and [REC], demons in Paranormal Activity and even nothing at all, with possibly the most famous of the lot, The Blair Witch Project. Now, Norwegian director André Øvredal bravely ventures into unknown territory, as he brings mythical Trolls to the mix, a creature that has rarely been at the forefront of narratives.
When a group of students investigate a spate of illegal bear killings seemingly linked to one man, they follow him across Norway in the hopes of catching him in the act. But what they uncover is far more bizarre: Hans, the alleged bear slayer, is in fact a Troll hunter. After initial skepticism, they soon learn how real the threat of a Troll attack is after encountering a ‘Rimetosser’ troll. The group, armed with a camera and a boom mic, are given permission to document Hans’ day to day struggles with the creatures in a bid to lift the lid on the Government’s attempts to cover up the existence of Trolls.
It’s a simple set up, but it’s crucially believable and totally engrossing; I’d have been more than happy to have just followed the crew in their quest to track down a bear killer for an hour and a half. That said, the transition from initial narrative premise to discovering that Hans is a Troll hunter seems natural too; it’s not forced, and Øvredal fortunately makes no effort to rush into things. Another important factor that makes the first act so well is the likability of the lead actors; of course, they are unknowns, as having stars would have taken away the ‘realistic’ nature of the film. But that doesn’t mean they’re amateurs: whilst not quite having any truly unique personalities, their enthusiasm to catch the hunter is admirable.
The battle hardened Hans (played by Otto Jespersen) is hilarious. Sometimes intentionally, but for the most part his actions are more often than not the reason why certain scenes are so memorable. Take, for example, one scene where he tries to lure a troll from under a bridge whilst wearing a protective suit that looks like it’s been put together from pots and pans: okay, so it looks funnier than it sounds, but I guarantee it’ll make you smile. This sequence also sums up why I enjoyed Troll Hunter so much: it manages to strike an almost perfect balance between comedy and tense drama. The troll designs are a little silly, but make no mistake: their power is devastating. The final act sees the group trying to stop a Jotnar, a 200ft tall race of troll, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best scenes, for me, of the last few years.
The camera, still being a handheld, is much more stable than you may have seen in other films of its kind, which reduces the chance of feeling nauseous, a complaint that many have had of this technique. One scenes action results in the camera lens becoming cracked, and this is relayed back to the audience for a good five minutes, which was a nice touch and emphasized the importance of this being a ‘camcorder’ style movie. The audio follows suit, and at times cuts out or is distorted due to it being captured using a boom mic. Having watched this on Blu Ray (which admittedly didn’t really make that much of a difference picture wise), I can safely say it would have been infinitely better on a cinema screen, or with a surround sound system at the very least. Whilst the yells of the Trolls are deafening and bone chilling, I can only imagine them to have been fully effective on a larger scale.
Brilliantly imaginative and highly original, Troll Hunter is an essential watch, not just for fans of foreign cinema but for film lovers worldwide.