From where I’m seated, it’s going to be extremely hard for anyone to top writer/director André Øvredal’s fascinating faux-documentary “The Troll Hunter”. Even if you absolutely detest the “found footage” genre, this thoroughly imaginative tale of Norwegian trolls and the man who is charged with exterminating them is so effortlessly entertaining that you’ll soon forget about its well-worn gimmick. The desire to watch it all over again from start to finish is overwhelming, as I’m sure there are quite a few thing regarding the story’s well-constructed mythology that I missed the first time through. Then again, I might just have a thing for watching giant monsters lumber slowly across a gorgeous snow-covered landscape. The kid in me never could resist a good creature feature.
But I don’t want to sell the film short by labeling it as a “monster movie”, because it’s so much more than that. Savvy audience members will notice immediately that the trolls themselves are not inherently evil or purposely cruel. Sure, they hate Christians with an unmitigated passion and they’re not exactly what you’d call gentle with the local wildlife, but they’re not as sinister or villainous as one would initially believe. There’s a deep sense of melancholy that lingers over the narrative, even when the on-screen antics tend to lean towards the humorous. What’s more, the picture has a tremendous heart, which sets it apart from other films of this nature. I’m looking at your, “Paranormal Activity”.
The movie is “shot” by a trio of upwardly mobile university students who are investigating a series of mysterious deaths in the local bear population. Since the hunting of said animal is strictly governed by the State, these unlicensed murders have ruffled some serious feathers in the local community. During their adventures in the countryside, the students spot a suspicious character lurking around area, and decide to ask him a few pointed questions regarding his intentions. The stranger, of course, shuts them down immediately and heads off into the wild blue yonder to do his own thing. The kids, meanwhile, are pretty sure he’s up to no good, and decide to follow him deep into the foreboding countryside. Their decision is a perilous one, as the suspect in question is heading directly into the heart of danger.
Before you can say “three-headed troll”, the group unexpectedly find themselves running for their lives through an endless forest, pursued in earnest by an enormous monstrosity that seems unusually agitated by their presence. Just when all seems lost, the kids are rescued by our titular hero, who uses a powerful ultraviolet flashlight to transform the angry troll into a statue. Although he’s none too pleased with his stalkers, the hunter, fed up with the bureaucracy of taking down these intimidating giants, allows the students to tag along and document the secrets kept under lock and key by the government. The would-be journalists sally forth, thrusting them into directly into troll-infested territories.
Although the format in which the story is presented has grown a little stale as of late, “The Troll Hunter” is anything but conventional. Nothing about the film is generic, cliche, or run-of-the-mill, a testament to both André Øvredal’s skilled direction and his decision not to saturate the screen with troll-related shenanigans. The creatures, while imposing, dangerous, and violently opposed to certain organized religions, come across like gentle giants; there’s a sadness to them that’s hard to figure out, that is, until Øvredal drops a last-second twist that puts everything into perspective. It’s a heartbreaking revelation, one that makes you realize who the true monsters really are. It’s definitely a nice touch, especially since it would have been easier for the filmmakers to transform this premise into a cheesy, balls-out farce. I think SyFy has that department well under hand.
Much to my joyous surprise, “The Troll Hunter” has left an incredible impression on me. I had a sneaking suspicion that the film would be cool to look at, but I never thought it would have quite the emotional impact that it does. André Øvredal has transformed a simple premise into a thrilling, intelligent motion picture that is currently unmatched by those who are currently dabbling in the “found footage” genre. The execution couldn’t be smarter, resulting in a suspenseful, fast-paced adventure that incorporates several tried-and-true elements from both action and horror. It also proves once again how much free-flowing creative energy is currently pulsing throughout Norwegian cinema these days. And while the idea of a sequel might enrage certain readers, I honestly cannot wait for a second installment. Assuming, of course, that the trolls are willing to cooperate.
André Øvredal (director) / André Øvredal (screenplay)
CAST: Otto Jespersen … Trolljegeren
Hans Morten Hansen … Finn
Tomas Alf Larsen … Kalle
Johanna Mørck … Johanna
Knut Nærum … E-verkssjef
Robert Stoltenberg … Polsk bjørnejeger
Glenn Erland Tosterud … Thomas