Norwegian creature feature TrollHunter is at once a clever parody of the increasingly tired “found footage” trope popularized by The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and [REC], and a slick thrill ride using the shaky-cam, first-person style to perfect effect. The low-budget, older-kid-friendly thriller takes a less-is-more approach to its tale of monsters rampaging through the icy countryside, and in so doing crafts a playful and utterly original piece of tongue-in-cheek escapism.
TrollHunter centers on a college film crew investigating illegal bear poaching in their area. They train their suspicion (and camera) on lone-wolf hunter Hans (Otto Jespersen), following him into mysterious and uncharted areas in an effort to find out whether he’s the culprit. Of course, Hans has bigger prey in his sights—gigantic trolls, which he eradicates for a secret government agency working to cover up the creatures’ existence. Hans reluctantly allows the crew to document him as he tracks three-headed beasts and other maladies in an effort to show the world the truth about things that go bump (and crash and fart) in the night, using U.V. cannons to turn the beasts to stone or make them explode.
It’s ridiculous, and rookie director André Øvredal knows it, approaching the story with a bone-dry humor. Citing folklore, Hans uses Christian blood as bait, while the conspiracy-theory plot gets laughs from a snarling field agent donning fake bear feet to create misleading tracks around slain sheep, and a dead-eyed Hans recalling the My Lai-style massacre of a troll village. The low-budget CGI creatures are cleverly glimpsed either through night vision, hidden in shadows or from the blurred perspectives of frightened cameramen, making them believable despite their cartoonishness. The technique makes TrollHunter’s lumbering beasts, who eat rocks and destroy unrelentingly, into seemingly palpable beings.
The film drags a bit
in the exposition—time is wasted on people yammering in the car, and
scenes of Hans going into endless scientific detail about troll
physiology go on forever. But when the trolls are terrorizing the people
and the landscape, it’s a goofy treat, another Scandinavian fractured
fairytale to set beside Rare Exports.
74 SEE IT: TrollHunter opens Friday at the Hollywood Theatre.