Like the zombie movie, the found footage sub-genre is definitely in its death throes. Whilst the corpse twitches and expels another Paranormal Activity sequel there are still some interesting ideas coming out, they just aren’t coming out of Hollywood. Troll Hunter is from Norway, a country not really that well known for its cinematic output and it's one of the best found footage films made so far.
Troll Hunter follows a student film crew as they traipse around the Norwegian wilderness following a series of supposed bear attacks covered by the local news. At each location they find a dead bear and some suspicious tracks. At each scene they also find a mysterious man named Hans (Otto Jespersen) and decide to follow him. Hans seems to be some kind of wildlife hunter, but huge shreds and marks on his Land Rover seem to indicate he has been attacked by something bigger. Eventually after hounding Hans across the countryside, he reluctantly agrees to let the film crew tag along as he feels he is underpaid for the work he does and doesn’t get the benefits that most employed people enjoy. Hans lets the crew know that he is what is known as a trolljegeren (troll hunter) and he patrols the wilderness looking for trolls to kill so that they don’t make their way into populated areas and wreak havoc. The film crew think he is deranged until a troll shows up and they witness the extent of the government’s attempts to cover up the existence of the creatures.
This is a great premise for a film and really works well. The troll attacks are reminiscent of the first Jurassic Park film as the build up has shaking trees and thunderous footsteps until finally an ugly looking beast rampages out of the forest. These scenes are thrillingly staged and the creatures themselves are extremely well realised. Some trolls have three heads, some are large rampaging brutes, some are hairy and go around in packs and some are the size of Godzilla. The effects work is impressive, on the surface hearing about a film of this type coming out of a country like Norway no one could blame you for thinking the creature effects might be sub-par. I’m pleased to say though that the monsters here measure up to anything Hollywood can produce. It could be the fact that the found footage format hides the rough edges of the CG creations but the creatures are never less that impressive. Each sequence with a different troll is staged slightly differently. The tensest sequence takes place as the crew are trapped in a cave with a bunch of sleeping trolls and one of the crew has a panic attack whilst trying to remain silent. There is also a scene towards the end of the film with a gigantic troll being fought on an open snowy wasteland which is suitably epic. This scene also contains another neat nod to Jurassic Park; you’ll know it when you see it.
Luckily the scenes between troll attacks are equally good. Director Andre Ovredal uses these scenes to flesh out the mythology of the trolls, taking in things like the fact that they turn into stone in the sunlight and how they use the underneath of bridges. Otto Jespersen as the world weary hunter is brilliant and really sells the character of a world weary man who has a really important job. He comes across more as a man pulling a nightshift in a café rather than a defender of civilisation. Much of what happens between action sequences is also frequently hilarious. Troll Hunter has a great sense of humour and much of it comes from the government’s attempts to cover up the troll’s existence and how this relates to everyday life.
If there is a complaint it’s that Troll Hunter takes a while to get going and isn’t always as fast paced as it should be. This is a minor complaint though asTroll Hunter is one of the most entertaining and original films to come out this year and as a genre fan you really should seek it out. There will be a sanitised Hollywood remake along any day now but don’t let its Scandinavian origins put you off. This is brilliant filmmaking and should be seen by as many people as possible.
Expected rating: 7 out of 10
'Troll Hunter' is in UK cinemas now