Buried amongst the recent glut of “found footage” horror films there is the occasional gem that raises a glimmer of hope that all is not lost to soulless studio systems and calculated money-men (unsurprisingly the US acquired remake rights for this before it’d even opened stateside). Troll Hunter is an independent Norwegian production that, along with titles such as Rare Exports and Dead Snow, once again goes to show the Scandinavians have more up their sleeve than Fjords and Black Metal.
Troll Hunter purports to be the unedited footage of three Volda University students in the beginning stages of making a documentary about a series of bear killings and a poacher/hunter suspected to be involved. After tracking down and attempting to interview the hunter, Hans, the students tail him into the forest where they discover his real occupation. Hans is one of a kind – a professional troll hunter, employed by a secretive government agency to protect Norway from a harsh reality thought only to exist in folklore and fairy-tales.
Sick and tired of concealing this from the public for minimal wage and zero recognition, Hans agrees to let the students film him on some troll eradication missions. Using an over-sized flash-gun that emits UV rays, Hans blasts any troll he encounters with synthetic sunlight, thus turning them to stone and allowing him to break them down into gravel. By the end of their film-making excursion the students have learned all the stereotypes they’d heard were true: trolls do indeed hide under bridges, smell the blood of a Christian man, eat rocks, and have horribly rancid farts.
I must admit Troll Hunter took me by surprise. I went in expecting yet another uninspired shaky-cam horror flick where you never quite get to see the monster and this is anything but. Plenty of trolls on display here! And I think that’s what really made it for me: the trolls themselves. The special effects are so impressively done that I actually managed to suspend my disbelief for a second and accept the existence of Norwegian trolls, they truly look that fantastic.
At first glance the plot may sound rather silly but the film is played straight-faced for the most part. Being a Norwegian film, it naturally has a host of Norse myths to base its troll archetypes on which helps the cement “reality” of it all and works far better than if it’d been presented as campy schlock. Of course that familiar Scandinavian black humor is in full effect but it only adds to the surreal atmosphere, particularly in a slapstick-esque scene involving some jolly Russians and a bogus bear attack.
When it comes down to it, Cannibal Holocaust will always be the ultimate “mockumentary” in my eyes; Deodato got there first and executed with style, but Troll Hunter (and a handful of others, e.g. Man Bites Dog, Cloverfield) is a very solid runner-up. Recommended viewing!
Extras included: 3 mins of deleted scenes, 7 mins of extended scenes, improv and blooper reel, rough sketches for the ideal troll, 22 min behind the scenes featurette, scenic views of the troll habitats, and a short HDnet special on the film. A well rounded selection of good quality extras and filler material.
DIRECTOR(S): André Øvredal | COUNTRY: Norway | YEAR 2011 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes