Recently I reviewed the cinematic epic that is Troll 2. The last review I did was the found footage film Chronicle. Combine them two together and what do you have? Other than a really confusing story about a vegetarian super-powered teenager? Why you get Norwegian adventure flick Troll Hunter of course! You’ve probably heard of this film by now. It’s proved to be a bit of a cult smash, and quite rightly so. Well I guess I just gave away that I liked it. I suppose you should click the following link if you want actual reasons why it is a good film…
Troll Hunter is one of those films that gives away a lot of its premise in its title. The film is indeed about a man that hunts trolls. The story starts with us following a group or young film makers named Thomas, Kalle and Johanna (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Tomas Alf Larsen & Johanna Mørck respectively) as they follow a man believed to be illegally poaching bears around the Norwegian woodlands. This man is Hans (Otto Jespersen), a man that clearly doesn’t want to be followed. Eventually their stalking of Hans leads them to discover just what it is he gets up to at night. Three guesses what it is based on the name of the film. And no he’s not a troll hunter like say a forum moderator could be. That would be a very different film. Hans hunts the very traditional trolls. The sort that turn to stone in sunlight and can smell the blood of a Christian man from 20 very large paces. No goblins here that’s for sure.
Like Chronicle the film does an effective job of telling a story and being a found footage film at the same time always remembering that it is a film first. A mistake quite a few films in this style have made before. The pacing is also very fluid which is a relief because quite often, as is the case with say The Blair Witch Project, these films quite often forget that stuff has to actually happen in order for you to care. By the way, not a fan of The Blair Witch Project.
The entire film hinges on two things though. Firstly is the performance from Otto Jespersen. He has a natural charisma to him that draws you into his performance slowly. See Hans agrees to let the students follow him due to how dissatisfied he is with his job. The hours are bad, the pay is bad and, as we learn later, the job has effected him negatively. Imagine having a job that required you to hunt down and kill an endangered species daily in order to keep them from wandering out into the public and causing a potential risk to life. Trolls are kept a secret by the government and the TSS, the Troll Security Service. A goofy name if ever there was one.
Secondly the film hinges on its effects. Over the last year I’ve reviewed a number of films that pull off big budget spectacle on a very low budget, monsters being the most obvious parallel. Troll hunter was made for the equivalent of $3.5 million. Not even joking, the effects are better than you see in a lot of $100 million films. There’s a handful of dodgy effects here and there but the effects were handled by a number of different companies so some inconsistency is to be expected. The finale especially manages to provide a show stopping example of a great action sequence with eye popping effects. Without Otto’s performance and the effects this film would have struggled to keep viewers hooked.
The main three characters documenting this hunt are fairly insubstantial. There’s a little characterisation to at least make them feel like actual people but are lacking any real character arcs beyond not believing in trolls and then believing in them. Pretty basic stuff. The film relies on a lot of Norwegian and classic troll folklore, even staging a riff on the Three Billy-Goats gruff fairy tale in one scene. A reference that would likely be lost on a lot of people. The film really isn’t for dissecting and does little to encourage intellectual discussion. It’s just not that sort of film. It is an adventure film first and foremost and as such it comes off very well.
Overall there’s little to really dislike about Troll Hunter. Its a fun, and occasionally funny, piece of fairy tale come to life that keeps its pace up and manages to slow down at just the right moments. Good pacing isn’t always go go go after all. Of course, all the trouble they went to could have easily been avoided with the help of a triple decker Bologna sandwich.