TrollHunter has been building some international buzz since its debut in its native Norway last year, apparently due to the novel concept of normal humans discovering that trolls are terrifyingly real. Well, that and its Norwegian origin. Seriously, can you name one other Norwegian film you’ve ever seen or you’ve ever had the opportunity to screen in a U.S. theater? As it turns out, that unique local flavor is really the only thing it has going for it, as its story is definitely nothing special.
The movie utilizes the “found footage” concept beaten to death in the wake of The Blair Witch Project by the likes of Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. In this case, a Norwegian student camera crew sets out to investigate bear killings in the wild, where they encounter and shadow a smelly old hunter who seems to know more than he admits. As they creep around after him in a restricted area of the deep dark woods in the dead of night, they hear some mysterious noises and film the hunter sprinting back towards them yelling “Trooolllll”. After making it back to safety, they question him about his exclamation but get nothing more out of him until a real live troll accosts them, at which point they learn that he’s a troll hunter, not a bear hunter.
That first encounter doesn’t happen until about a half hour into the movie, which means lots of mindless driving and traipsing around the majestic countryside with the camera crew with absolutely no special effects and limited character development, making for a pretty boring stretch aside from admiring the gorgeous scenery. Thankfully, things pick up a bit once the trolls start popping up, but those appearances are still fairly few and far between. On the upside, that makes the trolls a bit scarier than prolonged exposure might, as the filmmakers wisely choose to keep their creatures shadowy and mysterious, but unfortunately it results in far few scares to warrant the feature length running time.
There’s nothing special about the human acting, with the student characters contributing capable Scooby gang hysterics during frightful moments but little else. The troll hunter is gruff and stoic, a largely inscrutable character who basically acts as a tour guide as he tells the students about the different types of trolls, where to find them, and how to kill them. He works for a secret government organization that is fully aware of the trolls but acts to keep that knowledge from the general population, instead setting up evidence of fake bear attacks whenever breakouts occur.
The trolls are imaginative and their effects blend in seamlessly with the HD video format of the student footage, making for an extremely polished technical work fully worthy of exposure on the international stage. The concept is solid and it’s fun to learn about and see the different tribes of trolls as well as the government conspiracy to hide them. However, the overused cinema verite horror format and the fits and starts of action detract a bit from an otherwise worthwhile project.
TrollHunter opens in LA at the Nuart this week during its gradual U.S. rollout over the next couple of months. It’s also currently available on video on demand.