Review: Troll Hunter (15) / Written and directed by: Andre Ovredal / Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erlund Tosterud, Johanna Merck, Tomas Alf Larsen / Released: 9th January 2012
The ‘found footage’ film fad shows no sign of running out of steam and why should it? Cheap movies, high concepts, big bucks - luvvly jubbly. But for every Paranormal Activity there’s an Apollo 18 and somewhere in between these extremes - more probably way outside, in fact - sits a rather startling novelty like Troll Hunter, writer/director Andre Ovredal’s bleak and yet refreshing Norweigan offering (thankfully, for those too lazy to read the screen and watch the film, there’s a decently-dubbed English language version available on the disc) which manages to perk up a sub-genre which is starting to look a bit flaccid.
Shaky, occasionally grainy footage (cleverly edited by the people who found it, as always) introduces us to Norweigan film students Thomas (Toesterud - who looks disconcertingly like Ant or Dec, I really couldn't say which one) and Johanna (Morck) whose investigations into local bear-hunting lead them into contact with the surly, beardy Hans (Jespersen) who shoos them away when they try to join him as he travels across the country ostensibly trapping and killing bears. But these are damned persistent kids and in the middle of the night they find out that Hans is really in the employ of the TSS - the Troll Security Service - and he's busy trying to keep a lid on the country's burgeoning troll problem.
Troll Hunter differs from most of its 'found footage' forebears in a number of ways, most notably that these sorts of films often exist because the makers don't have the financial resources or the technology to conjure up the visual scares. Not here though. The trolls which appear - frequently - throughout Troll Hunter are right there front and centre on the screen, raging and stamping, interacting with the human protagonists and frightening the living Norweigan crap out of them. Whilst Jespersen's charismatic, brooding, matter-of-fact Hans is the film's 'hero' figure, the trolls are the reason we're here and they don't disappoint. These are superbly and subtly realised creatures, evoking memories of some of Ray Harryhausen's better efforts, great giant monstrosities striding across the landscape, lurching out from the distance, each of them distinct, some of them, with their huge hooters and their foul flatulence, initially quite comical. But they're always threatening and disorientating because they're the stuff of nightmare, creatures we remember from childhood fairy-tales and because they're mythical creatures which have their roots in an unfamiliar culture which makes them seem even more terrifying. The final face-off just before daybreak in a desolate, snowy landscape between Hans and his van with its array of ultra-violet lights and the biggest troll of all - it's displayed in the film's striking poster image - is genuinely as exciting as anything in a bigger-budgetted Spielberg monster movie as Hans and the students flee from the troll which is lumbering after them and, at one point, overtakes them forcing them to swerve to avoid its giant feet as it strides ahead of them. Exhilirating.
Troll Hunter has a very agreeable, drily-documentary feel to it. Hans rattles off the troll pecking order as if it's common knowledge and there are welcome elements of Government conspiracy throughout, especially in an amusing coda after the inevitable 'shock' ending, the Norwegian prime minister casually lets slip the existence of trolls to a Norweigan TV-viewing public. I wonder..?
Frequently witty, sometimes off-putting but always engaging and enjoyable, Troll Hunter thankfully brings something new to the 'found footage' table if only by virtue of its European origins and sensibilities. Dread the in-production unnecessary US remake which will, more than likely, miss the entire point of the thing, and just savour the atmosphere of a good, old-fashioned monster movie with a difference.
Special features: Trailer, deleted and extended scenes, improvs and bloopers, visual effects feature, behind the scenes etc.