TrollHunter (2010)

America has the myth of the Sasquatch, Eastern Europe gave us vampires, and zombies are generally thought to come from Haiti by way of West Africa. But did you know that humble Norway lays claim to its own well-known, homegrown monster? The troll, versatile staple of fantasy worlds from Middle Earth to Harry Potter’s England, originated in Norse mythology. More than just a bit player in a pantheon of monsters, the troll has for centuries occupied a central position as the preeminent Scandinavian bandersnatch. (Thank you, word of the day!) With that in mind it’s surprising it took this long for a Norwegian production company to put together enough financing to build a movie that would appeal to fanatical western genre audiences. Fortunately 2010’s TrollHunter (Trolljegeren) fills that void rather nicely, combining impressive visuals with decent if imperfect found footage framing. Somewhere in Italy, Claudio Fragasso is sharpening his pencil and biding his time.

Hey, their rednecks look just like ours! I'd like to buy the world a Coke.

The story: TrollHunter opens with a film school crew shooting a documentary about bear poaching, a big no-no in Norway. The trail takes them to the campground refuge of a suspected poacher, but instead of finding a lawbreaking sport hunter, the group’s quarry turns out to be a sort of supernatural game warden. Well, the game is supernatural. The warden is just an ordinary man trained in veterinary science and charged by the government with keeping the country’s hidden troll population in check. I have to say if there are monsters in the world – and there fucking better be – I’d expect to find them in places a lot like the stunning, mountain-rimmed shorelines of Norway.

Despite his initial reluctance, soon Hans the hunter consents to allow the students to follow him as he investigates a recent spike in troll-related incidents. Armed with an array of ultraviolet weaponry – trolls turn to stone or explode when exposed to the sun’s rays – Hans and his new-found Boswells set off on a dangerous adventure into the darkest forests, snowiest mountains, and abandonediest mines in search of the cause of the unprecedented disturbance.

Or we could blow up the entrance and trap them inside. You're right, that's a stupid idea. Let's do your plan.

Biggest letdown: This is a really fun movie, even if the “__________ really do exist” premise has worn a little thin and the shaky-cam, found footage convention has been exhaustively explored by movies like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. Nevertheless it remains mostly effective, though there are some lingering logical questions when all is said and done.

One thing that made me cock my head and raise an eyebrow: when the head of the TSS (Troll Security Service, hello?) finds out Hans has revealed the nation’s most closely guarded secret to a film crew, he doesn’t order them all killed on the spot. If they had gotten mixed up in a comparable America cover-up, they would have spent the rest of the movie running for their lives from armed men in suits and sunglasses. Instead, they’re treated to a little feckless disapprobation and allowed to keep on shooting. What’s more, after the crew records indisputable video evidence of the greatest biological find in the history of the planet, they decide the best course of action is to sit on it for a few days. I would have waited for everyone to fall asleep that first night and immediately left their stupid asses behind while I hightailed it to the nearest TV station on my way to Stockholm and a Nobel Prize.

Monty Python, with trolls!

Why you should watch: First and foremost the visual effects are treat, especially given the obviously limited budget. (IMDB says about 20 million Norwegian krones, maybe $3 million USD. I love that their currency is the krone. I’m moving to Norway.) The CG animations in the climax are especially striking, though western audiences spoiled by $200 million (1.2 billion krone!) budgets may not be overly impressed.

I was also tickled by the cutesy translations of the various species of troll like tosserlad, ringlefinch, and jotnar. And personally, I never tire of seeing a fantastical situation reduced to a bureaucratic morass, whether it’s Men in Black‘s alien immigration procedures or Hellboy‘s Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. It’s no less effective in TrollHunter, as Hans complains about having to fill out stacks of government-issue “Troll Slay Forms” over breakfast.

"Say 'ost' muthafucka!"

Memorable Moment: Hans reveals his true identity in relatively short order, but the film crew remains unconvinced he’s anything more than a quixotic outdoorsman. They’re goofing around in a dark field, waiting for his return, when suddenly the ground starts to quake. Trees shake in the distance like the early episodes of Lost, but in this case (instead of teasing us for four interminable seasons before revealing the monster is a puff of fucking smoke) the trees abruptly part to fully reveal a 30-foot tall, three-headed troll. I’ve always admired monster movies that aren’t afraid of delivering a money shot early on. It’s a big part of why I liked The Host in spite of its inscrutable plot. If the creature design is worth its salt and executed with competent artistry, the impact isn’t used up the first time it appears in all its glory. The audience is invited to examine the specimen, dared to find its hidden seams and wires. If done properly it doesn’t reduce anticipation, but rather elevates its starting position. Of course you need to keep upping the ante to keep pace, and Trollhunter doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

Choice quote: “Do you think Michael Moore gave up after the first try?”

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6 Responses to “TrollHunter (2010)”

  1. Jotnar Ringlefinch DiLeo. Almost as good as Rodeo.

  2. […] TrollHunter – Tosserlads and ringlefinches and jotnars, oh my! […]

  3. […] (also the U.S. version, Quarantine) and Cloverfield. I’ve done a few of them this year (TrollHunter, Last Exorcism), but the idea of a turning the premise for any found footage movie into a franchise […]

  4. Watch Megavideo Movies Online…

    […]TrollHunter (2010) « 31 Flavors of Terror[…]…

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