Written by Ellen Tremiti, Fanboy Comics Contributor
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 20:39
I saw one foreign film while at Sundance 2011, a Norwegian picture, aptly named The Troll Hunter. In this documentary-style film, a group of students hunt down an accused bear poacher (Otto Jespersen, a Norwegian comedian and actor) in the hopes of capturing his actions for their documentary on poaching. This unwashed, misanthropic man urges them to leave him alone, but as one of the students (Glenn Erland Tosterud) observes, “Do you think Michael Moore gave up after the first try?” They do not heed his advice. Instead, the students follow him deep into the woods with their camera until they catch him trying to kill gigantic… menacing… TROLLS. The Troll Hunter is full of laughs in this mockumentary film that utilizes engaging actors and a decently smart script; in fact, the only place the movie fails is exactly where we really want it to succeed: the trolls themselves.
The group of young Norwegian students, notably Tosterud, Johanna Morck, and Tomas Alf Larsen, work together to rope us into the story from the very beginning. They are young, they are eager and, from the title, we already know they are in over their heads. Enter the Troll Hunter himself. Otto Jespersen injects the film with creative, albeit nonsensical, folklore regarding trolls and their history. He informs the youngsters and, by extension, the audience that we have had the wool pulled over our eyes for far too long, and that Norway has been complicit in a conspiratorial cover up. Begrudgingly, he takes the students in under his wing and admits that he is sick and tired of doing the government’s dirty work.
Deadpan comedy and naturalistic dialogue make The Troll Hunter reminiscent of other successful mockumentary productions, such as the American film Best In Show, hybridized with some other horror documentary-like film, such as Cloverfield. After a series of encounters with these trolls, both Woodland and Mountain dwellers, the Troll Hunter exposes the various troll quirks and vulnerabilities that he has discovered over the years. The trolls, however, aren’t a particularly smart adversarial group. They are fairly dumb and slow, but they are large, smelly, and loud, which can be considered intimidating and scary, right? The trolls’ oafish appearance end up orienting this movie more as a funny family film, than as an original scary monster movie.
While I was sitting in the theater, I remember thinking, this movie is pretty enjoyable, now, please, don’t show the trolls anytime soon. Keep building the suspense! Much to my dismay, the trolls are no big surprise, and as soon as you see one, the tension dissipates. Director André Øvredal succeeded in creating an entertaining premise, but he made no attempt to fill the movie with real, pulse-pounding chills and thrills. Some of the devices created to immobilize the trolls are downright silly, and the CGI looks like a lazy way to create scares. The movie also ends predictably with lengthy captions that explain in painfully clear terms: we are leaving this movie open-ended so we can make a sequel.
Overall, The Troll Hunter is more of a family film that maintains its lightness at the expense of its scariness. I’ve noticed a couple reviews that praise it for withholding the monsters and for its CGI. Honestly, I don’t think we saw the same movie. It should be praised for using the mockumentary-style on a horror film and creating a comedic movie that a general audience is sure to enjoy. The Troll Hunter is an inventive movie with broad appeal, if you don’t think too hard about it, and, well, an American remake is already in the works. I recommend the Norwegian original for a PG-13 appropriate family or teen audience for now; we’ll see if a remake would fix any of the issues with the trolls themselves. Or, if a remake will destroy the charm of the original, and leave us with nothing but disappointing CGI. Let’s hope not.