Sunday, August 9, 2015


On a whim, I decided to check out Trollhunter, a 2010 Norwegian horror-comedy offering, presented as a found-footage faux documentary. Happily, because the movie makers in the film itself are reasonably accomplished, we don't have a lot of herky-jerky shaky-cam bullshit, à la The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. The movie is directed by André Øvredal and stars Otto Jespersen as Hans the troll hunter, Tomas Alf Larsen as camera operator Kalle, Johanna Mørck as boom operator Johanna, Glenn Erland Tosterud as director Thomas, and Urmila Berg-Domaas as camera operator Malica. I'm not at all familiar with any of these folks, though several members of the cast are apparently noted comedians in Norway.

The story begins with a trio of college students-slash-aspiring moviemakers out to make a documentary film about a suspected poacher named Hans (Otto Jespersen). The students attempt to interview the man, but he rebuffs them. However, late one night, they follow him into the deep forest, where they see flashing lights and hear a strange roaring sound. Hans comes running back, screaming "Troll!" An unseen creature attacks and bites Thomas, leaving him in pain but not seriously injured. The students soon find their vehicle destroyed by some unknown force. Hans takes them back to their campsite at the edge of the forest, where he informs them that he is a trollhunter. At first, the students are skeptical, but Hans allows them to accompany him on his outings as long as they do exactly as he says. He inquires if any of them are Christian, to which they all reply that they are not. This is most important, Hans tells them, for trolls are attracted by the blood of Christians. Still disbelieving, they proceed into the forest with Hans, only to witness a giant, three-headed troll for themselves. He turns it to stone by using a flash gun that emits ultraviolet light to simulate sunlight, which — as everyone should know — is lethal to trolls.

Hans reveals that he is an agent of the Norwegian Troll Security Service, a branch of the government dedicated to keeping the troll population under control. Recently, the trolls have begun emerging from their own territory in the forests and infringing on human centers of population, resulting in several deaths. It is Hans's job to determine what has happened to alter the trolls' behavior. Using live goats on a bridge as bait, Hans manages to extract a blood sample from a bridge troll via a gigantic syringe. He sends the blood sample to be analyzed but the results will take several days.

The students accompany Hans on an excursion to a farm, which appears to have been devastated by trolls, and from here they manage to follow several of the creatures to an abandoned mine. However, the trolls trap them inside due to Kalle, the cameraman, actually being a Christian. The trolls kill him, and Hans, Thomas, and Johanna barely escape with their lives.

A Muslim woman name Malica arrives to replace Kalle as the camera operator. Thomas, however, becomes seriously ill, and they now learn from the troll blood sample that the trolls have rabies, and Thomas has been infected.

A gigantic, 200-foot troll called a Jontar now emerges from the forest, and Hans attempts to kill it with a powerful rocket that can turn the creature to stone. As the students attempt to flee, Thomas collapses from the rabies infection, and the camera captures a truck coming toward them on the highway. The film proper ends, but an epilogue reveals that none of the students who filmed the footage — found by the truck driver — were ever heard from again.

I had no idea what to expect from this movie, and I'm happy to say I found it delightful. It's a fine mix of eerie atmosphere, beautiful visuals, and tongue-in-cheek comedy. The CGI trolls are whimsical, yet at the same time impressive in their size and ferocity, especially the huge creature called the Jontar. The actors are all capable enough, and I was quite taken with Otto Jespersen's deadpan portrayal of Hans, which serves to add an entirely new layer of whimsy to the story. The Troll Security Service is presented just as if it were any other state bureaucracy, the trolls just another element of nature for which the Norwegian authorities must be responsible.

The substantial amount of utterly gorgeous Norwegian scenery captured on film helps make this movie visually stunning. The nighttime scenes in the woods, in particular, generate an ominous atmosphere perfect for scale of the trolls. Certain scenes are filmed using night-vision lenses, and the stark, green-tinged images interspersed with the naturally lit scenes heighten the tension and the sense of being right there on the spot.

Trollhunter isn't perfect. While not an overly long film (103 minutes), it does seem to carry on longer than necessary, mostly due to some drawn-out scenes with personnel from the Troll Security Service. The found-footage angle works pretty well in this one, so much due to the fact you aren't distracted by the frenetic camera work (despite the story not being so bad, I never want to watch Cloverfield again; the overuse of the shaky-cam was not effective but stupid). All in all, Trollhunter is a mighty fun sampling of Norwegian humor and storytelling. Visit it for yourself.
L–R: Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas, Tomas Alf Larsen as Kalle, Johanna Mørck as Johanna,
Otto Jespersen as Hans
"I turn to stone when you are gone, I turn to stone."
"Who's that trap-trapping over my bridge? Oh... that would be me."

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