The Troll Hunter (2010)
Dir Andre Ovredal (except with that slash through the "O")
Starring Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Hans Morten Hansen.
One of the films I often find myself telling people they absolutely need to see is INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, the weird deadpan (comedy?) horror mockumentary about Werner Herzog and the guy who wrote X-MEN 2: X-MEN UNITED getting menaced by a hump and a shaky camera. Conversationally, and to divert attention from the fact that they have no intention at all of doing so, they’ll usually respond, “Oh yeah, is that good?” and I have to pause and say I honestly don’t know, but it’s definitely something.
TROLL HUNTER is almost a sequel to that one, at least in tone. It’s a completely deadpan found-footage kind of deal which is hilarious without being especially funny and oddly compelling without exactly being interesting. It concerns a couple of Norwegian college kid film students who end up making an impromptu documentary about Hans, a troll hunter hired by the Norwegian government to keep the troll population under control and keep the whole thing under wraps from the public. Hans is a pretty great character, grizzled and badass but with a certain world-weariness to him and an endearing dusting of grumpy old man dorkiness (he’s the kind of guy who can face down a thirty-foot-tall troll but also eat breakfast at a diner wearing that sweater that your grandma sent you when you were a kid). The leader of the college kids (played with a winning gleeful enthusiasm by Glenn Tosterud) can hardly believe their luck at stumbling onto this story. He points out the likely monetary rewards of the footage he’s collecting and also cites the people’s right to know about trolls, but his expression says that he’s in it because this is just so fucking cool. He can't help but sneak looks back at the camera with a great Can you believe this? look on his face, and his interest is infectious.
Which is good, because most of the film is details about trolls, their life habits, the politics of troll hunting, and the daily tricks of a troll hunter’s trade. Hans insists trolls are non-magical mammalian predators no different –and maybe even a little less intelligent—than bears, and scoffs at the notion that they’re anything like their portrayal in fairy tales even as he enumerates some rather curious aspects of troll biology (for instance, they eat rocks, grow as big as mountains, live under bridges, and can smell the blood of Christians). “Do they all have three heads?” Thomas asks? “Not all of them.” Hans assures him. Actually they’re not real heads at all, Hans explains, they’re protrusions which grow as the troll ages to intimidate other males and –with the slightest shadow of a smile—to impress females. The particulars of trolls' behavioral quirks lead to some inspired weirdo comedy moments which I won't spoil.
|Still looks better in night vision than Paris Hilton.|
The charm of the film is mostly in the dryly absurd details presented nonchalantly with a hint of professional pride by Otto Jespersen’s Hans. It’s too cheekily ridiculous to honestly believe it’s meant to be taken seriously as a horror film, but it actually does manage to at least create some effectively fun suspense scenes. The mockumentary style forces the viewer to stay trapped in a single perspective (they have only one camera) which actually manages to heighten the tension by not offering the customary perspective escape. Yes, there’s a lot of shaky camera, but the film is thankfully more interested in showing you what’s going on than convincing you of its authenticity. The mockumentary format is not strictly necessary to tell this story (especially since its completely unconvincing) and may irritate folks who are getting tired of this gimmick, but to me works for the film by making things seem all the more commonplace and grounded in reality, which just emphasizes the absurdity. The Trolls look completely ridiculous (in the best possible way), but the effects are good enough that they seem believable most of the time, and the found-footage angle probably does a little to heighten this effect, which is key to the film’s humor.
Anyway, by no means a masterpiece, but an enjoyable romp with a cheerful playfulness and an odd kind of inexplicable charm. As you might imagine, Chris Columbus’ production company immediately recognized that this is a pleasant experience because of its unique cadence, low-key leads and commitment to being unexpected, defiantly indefinable pulp and immediately bought the rights to remake it as a big-budget Hollywood monster epic. There seems like there should be a joke to be made here, because of course Columbus directed the tepid first HARRY POTTER film, which did in fact feature a troll, and also there’s that movie TROLL (now sadly best known as being the one which isn’t TROLL 2) which features a character named Harry Potter (two, actually). So there’s a troll and Potter connection and now this one, obviously that means something but I can’t quite figure out what. Maybe Columbus is planning to adapt this one into some kind of TROLL / HARRY POTTER crossover thing, I think I’d pay to see that (maybe even in 3-D) as long as they keep that awesome TROLL Song (maybe they can get John Williams to do a version of it?)
I’ll keep you informed as this story progresses.