Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Here comes THE TROLL HUNTER



The opening title cards establish the film as footage inexplicably sent to a film centre, which has made a rough cut to present to the public (as you do). With this basic premise for presentation out of the way, we are thrust into a very familiar set up of college kids filming a documentary for school. This Blair Witch deja vu is never fully shaken, but Norwegian horror The Troll Hunter does just about rise above the shadow of the archetype found footage film.


The students follow Hans, a man believed to be responsible for illegal bear poaching, who is resistant to answering their questions. In a borderline stalker manner, they follow him miles across the country, monitoring his stinking modified trailer, and ultimately follow him as he goes out to take care of business during the night. Ultimately, they end up stumbling into Hans as he retreats from a hostile situation in the dead of night screaming 'troll!!!'. With one of the students being bitten by something and their car destroyed, they make a deal with the hunter to join him the following night to reveal all the secrets. 


With dabbings into religious elements, government conspiracies, and the need to give people the truth, The Troll Hunter has a wide world deep in intrigue. The first troll is visually interesting, and becomes even more so throughout when certain defining attributes are revealed to be nothing more than secondary sexual characteristics, and the troll being turned to stone left me gap-jawed. Nothing feels forced, the film pokes fun at its own potentially ridiculous premise (the Polish are brilliant), and it covers a satisfying array of subject matter in its running time. Hell, if a film was ever meant to spawn a sequel, this is it.


It's nose looks like a dong. 
Just putting that out there.


Its biggest problem though, is that the film is a slow burner, which seems to be a common issue with many Norwegian features. There are plenty of shots that dwell on the beautiful Scandinavian landscapes. Certainly beautiful, but not exactly something a film with the best B-movie poster of the year needs to be focusing on. With a film called the Troll Hunter, you know you are in for some fairy tale monsters, but the biggest downfall of the film is that once it unleashes the beasts on us, we are denied access to them for a significant portion of the third act.


But these are the only real problems with the film. Indeed, once the troll action gets going, we are treated to some fantastic tense scenes, intelligent justifications of the mythos, and characters we can get behind. Respectively, waiting for the first sighting is almost unbearable, a legitimate reason for the beasts turning to stone adds a lovely sense of realism, and the jokey and realistic relationship between the students is all too recognisable. The major standout in cast is Otto Jespersen as Hans, who in essence is just too old for this shit.


The trolls themselves differ location to location, with some interesting designs. However, they are realised using CGI and, though on the upper end of the uncanny valley (and probably unbelievable for the budget of the film), they do seem too reminiscent of giants from Harry Potter or ogres from countless video games. This modern day twist to a film marketed in an 80s B-movie way leaves a slightly sour taste on ones tongue. With that said, the troll under the bridge scene is both hilarious and captivating, and the final sequence is a good pay off for the viewer.


Iron Man vs. Sasquatch


In the end, the Troll Hunter is worth a watch, but beware, it is not the campy ride you might expect and in many cases wish it would become. I found myself wanting one major plot point to be a lot more intricate than it ended up being. In some ways, the film just cannot let itself go the whole hog with its insane premise. If you can get over this and just how similar in style and structure it is to Blair Witch, you will find a lovely gem that is both entertaining and intelligent. Recommended.