Monday, April 18, 2011

The Troll Hunter (Review)

The Troll Hunter

The Troll Hunter (2011)

Directed by André Øvredal

When trolls attack, who ya gonna call?


It seems in Scandinavia they take their fairy tales damn seriously. I already brought to your attention the Santa Claus in the wilderness turned killers flick from Finland Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Thanks to that, I'll never think of jolly old Santa the same way again.

But now thanks to Andre Ovredal's latest flick The Troll Hunter, my views of lovable trolls has now been smashed to smithereens. The Troll Hunter gives a unique spin in that now tired shaky cam/found footage subgenre. You've all seen ghosts, zombies, cannibals and other found footage flicks. What makes this one any different? Honestly, I gotta say it's trolls.

Somehow the subject of this college film crew discovering real life trolls makes the fantasy fun to watch. I actually didn't know much about the fairy tale and the folklore of trolls but as I watched the film it started educating me just like a documentary would. Add in some gratuitous running shaky cam, a glimpse of a real life Paul Bunyan troll hunter and some solid trolls FX and you have a great film that lives up to it's tagline.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

A group of students investigate 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.

Awesome Review-O-Matic

The comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust and Cloverfield are inevitable. The film begins by telling you the footage you are about to see was taken from hours of footage and now has been edited to help the public identify the now missing documentary crew.

As all these movies follow the same formula, I'm implementing my formulaic POV review.

1.) The camera "person" films everything
2.) His friends who become part of the video
3.) Something sinister starts to scare them
4.) The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

1.) The camera "person" films everything

Our trio of college students Tomas (our host) , Kalle (camera operator) and Johanna (the sound gal) are introduced to us. Seems like they want to investigate bear attacks but eventually set their sights on a mysterious hunter they think is a poacher.

What we see through Kalle's shaky (and seriously it's freakin shaky as hell lens) are breathtaking views of Norway. Lush green mountains and lakes that are bar none beautiful. We do get our standard host Tomas doing a news report but other footage is inter spliced that's raw. It'd be odd to shoot your sound person or record yourself driving in a car, but with all these cinema verite flicks, you gotta show continuity right?

Act 1 is clearly all establishing shots. We get to know our crew, meet some locals and get to know our way around these towns of Norway. Once they target the hunter to interview, they start noticing some oddities including a shredded car and a mobile home with a smell and animal parts that are extremely weirdo.

2.) His friends who become part of the video

"Friends" do become part of the video but for our crew Otto isn't our friend initially. After they follow Otto our mysterious hunter to a secluded no trespassing location, they realize he isn't hunting bear after all. "TROLLS!" he yells and we start Act 2 in a WTF sorta way.

With any found footage film, you live for the moment when you get your first glimpse of a zombie or ghost. Here we get our first glimpse of a troll and it's utterly fantastic. Gone are any notions of cute, small oddly colored spiky hair trolls you know. Steeped in Norwegian legend are troll monsters, huge and grotesque. It's a complete WTF moment when you lay eyes on this mega creature but the effects are District 9 and Cloverfield compliant. The trolls are cleverly inter spliced into the footage. The build up is nicely done. You see rustling trees, then a large foot, a tale and then a complete shot of the entire monster.

For that I'm thankful. The film crew after all their running, camera dropping and shaky rattle and roll footage record the troll in all it's glory. It's something Cloverfield sucked at. But in The Troll Hunter they excel. This is something I liked.

Sure the shock of realizing trolls are real is enormous but they shoot the footage like "Oh shit! Trolls are real! I'm going to record everything about this!"

3.) Something sinister starts to scare them

We later get to meet Otto and what he does. He's a disgruntled government employee that allows the crew to record him because he's had enough of the politics of keeping it a secret. Through a series of interviews we get to know Otto's history. How long he's been doing this, the different types of trolls (Woodland trolls and Mountain trolls), what they eat, how to find them, how to avoid them, how they find us (they can smell Christians!?!), and the cover stories that are fed to the mainstream news media.

As we get to know Otto, the Troll Hunter we begin to like him. It's this footage that makes the film. Not the special effects or even the film crew. The focus is all about Otto and by spending time with him, we see a man whose job is extraordinary but he sees it as plain old ordinary. The beauty of modesty in the most extreme circumstances is cliched I know, but works here.

But what's the sinister? Well it seems the trolls are moving out of their allocated territory and there are more dangerous trolls than we've seen. From encounters with the "Tosserlad" 3 headed troll, to the ferocious "Ringlefinch" troll that lives under a bridge, to the infamous "Jotnar" whose as tall as a skycraper, the crew puts itself in great peril to record Otto at work.

4.) The film ends with "the final shot" that gets the audience shocked

The danger results in a fatality amongst our crew but a replacement is brought in. The final scenes result in a climactic battle with the "Jotnar" and they are unbelievably awesome. It's a final shot that deserves applause.

The Troll Hunter is also filled with tons of humor that can't go unnoticed. Most of the dialogue was improvised by the actors (Otto is played by Otto Jespersen a popular comedian in Norway). We also get to meet Finn (Hans Morten Hansen) , the govt agent for the "Troll Security Service". At one point he brings in some Poland contractors that prove hilarious. The film is clearly geared for the Norwegian crowd but internationally it holds up well. All the performances are solid but Jespersen is superb as the stoic and non-chalant Otto, troll hunter extraordinaire.

The film is not without a few flaws. With all shaky cam movies, we can expect a level of nausea inducing camera shots. The Troll Hunter is littered with a ton of em. The first half of the movie is an editor's nightmare of quick cuts, edited shots and a camera that never stops violently moving. At times, I was getting a headache.

The other gripe is we never got to explore our film crew. Whereas an American film would explore each of these characters to the max, we never really get an idea of who they are. It would have been nice see what they were all about.

Overall, The Troll Hunter is a break of fresh air in the found footage genre. But don't clump it in there with the rest. It's a suspense driven action comedy that is unlike anything you've ever seen. It's preposterously serious and takes the the troll mythos to a whole new level.

The Troll Hunter will without a doubt shatter your expectations you have of this fairy tale, give you new insight to the legend and leave you thinking if it all was really real.

Who ya gonna call?


So troll for you! Next!

WTF moment

The Jotnar...holy shit!

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

The Troll Hunter will be released by Magnet Releasing and will be On Demand May 6th and in theaters June 10th. If you get a chance to see it, go! You won't be dissappointed.

The Vitals

Check out the trailer below.


  1. I absolutely loved this film. It may just be the most effective "found-footage" film yet. Not as scary as Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, but much better made... it's the monster film I wanted Cloverfield to be. Everything about it seems to flow so much more naturally. The Trolls are blended into the scenes extremely realistically. And the Trollhunter is just the coolest character ever introduced in any of these films. It took about 15 - 20 min to get going, but once he yells "TROLLLL!!!" I was hooked the rest of the way through. Pure fun!

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