Director: André Øvredal
Starring: Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg,
Glenn Erland Tosterud
Running Time: 103 minutes
Cinema Release Date: 9 September 2011
Scandinavian mythology meets ‘found footage’ in this dark fantasy tale on the existence of trolls and the Norwegian Government’s desperation to keep them under wraps. Mythology presented in a mildly horrific way combined with dark humour and the undertones of conspiracy make the Norwegian mockumentary an enjoyable, amusing and thoroughly entertaining way to wile away an evening.
Set in the swirling mists of the mountain ranges, murky forests and dank caves of Western Norway, The Troll Hunter presents itself as a rough cut of unaltered footage, sent anonymously to a production company. After lengthy analysis it is deemed ‘authentic’ by professionals. What ensues is apparent footage of a documentary filmed by a group of students during Norway’s bear-hunting season. Picking up on the trail of a suspected poacher (played by controversial Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen), the students relentlessly follow in the hopes of interviewing him. After a frightening encounter, whilst tracking him into the woods at night, they discover that he is not a poacher of bears, but rather a Trollerjeregen, employed by the elusive TSS (Troll Security Service) to cull any trolls that drift out of their territories, too close to humans. Due to job dissatisfaction and guilt, Hans – the troll hunter – allows the students to accompany and film him. This ultimately gives the students the tools to expose the existence of trolls. But the TSS are hot on their heels…
From the offset, The Troll Hunter carries an immersive and realistic edge, coupled with dark humour. While the atmosphere itself is wound tightly, and the trolls are beastly and intimidating enough – to cause a few moments of genuine nervousness – it is the authentic and hilarious banter between cast members, that make this film unique. With its cast of well-known, albeit controversial, Norwegian comedians and relative unknowns, there is a distinct humanity embedded within what is essentially a retold fairytale.
Laughs aside, another unique selling point is that of governmental conspiracy and the nonsensical nature of human ideology. The characters and audience both ask the same questions, primarily – if trolls exist, why does nobody know about them? The answer is not in government cover-ups, as their attempts at dispelling the truth are clumsy at best! No, the reason is people simply don’t want to believe in something they have been told is fictitious, especially the stuff of children’s fairytales. Even when faced with trolls, the characters are reluctant to believe. This subtle yet cleverly engineered theme of ideology is woven into the plot, allowing both large slabs of comedy and a rare opportunity for social commentary within a fantasy horror.
On the surface, there are few major faults. The plot is clever and engaging, the effects realistic and impressive, and the location simply breath-taking. However, an excess of filler footage including a deluge of car window filmed scenery does hinder – and slowdown – a near flawless film. This could be attributed to the meagre £3,000,000 budget. One is also left with the feeling that there were missed opportunities for some gut-wrenching, bone crunching horror. While the film is intended as a mild, family-friendly horror, a splash of realistic gore here and there would have added to the chill factor.
Minor grievances aside, The Troll Hunter is an excellent film and will hopefully help put Norway on the cinematic map… as long as the Americans don’t get to the film rights (oh, too late). Fans of horror may feel cheated by its subtlety but would be missing the point. It is a thrilling, amusing and thoroughly entertaining exploration of human nature. And if you don’t like social analysis, there are some big ass trolls to look at! Let us just hope the Americans don’t butcher this beauty like they did [REC] and countless other foreign horror classics.