Director: André Øvredal
Cast: Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Nærum
Review by Brian M. Sammons
I really love what the Norwegians have been doing with genre flicks. Be it slashers (Cold Prey), zombies (Dead Snow), or now good old fashioned monsters movies with Troll Hunter, they actually seem to “get it.”
Moviemakers in that cold, snowy land take a Viking’s approach to making flicks, that is they take no prisoners and just go for it. This latest movie is a prime example of this, it takes a somewhat silly premise, that being hunting honest to goodness trolls in the modern day, but treats the subject with care and respect you just wouldn’t find in an American movie. Sure there are funny bits, but the laughs are organic, part of the story, and not forced or worse yet, at the expense of the titular trolls. This is how monster movies should be made.
So put on your heavy winter coat, grab a very bright (and very special) flashlight, and let’s go hunt some trolls.
Troll Hunter is shot like a certain other big critter flick, Cloverfield, and that is through 1st person, shaky-cam style. In the tradition of other “found footage films,” a news show gets a few digital discs sent to it anonymously, showing some very strange stuff, but with a note stating that the video is 100% authentic. These discs are from three college kids (two men and a woman) doing a news report on a supposed bear poacher. Yeah, I guess it was a slow news week in Norway. Anyway, the intrepid trio tracks down the man, and he is indeed a hunter, but his quarry isn’t bears. With a title like Troll Hunter for this movie, can you guess what he really hunts? Yeah no surprise there, but then you must have known that from the get go, so let’s move on.
The three filmmakers follow the hunter into the woods one night, lose him, and then bump into him as he comes running out of the forest yelling “troll!” Sure enough, there is a twenty-foot-or-so tall troll on his tail. Luckily this guy actually hunts these things and he knows daylight kills them, and even though it’s nighttime he has some high power UV lights to turn the trolls into stone. The three college kids get the battle all on film and then somehow convince the hunter to let them follow him around and document his secret war against a whole slew of trolls whenever they get out of line, culminating in a truly epic battle for the climax. You’ve seen the Blu-ray cover right? Yeah, that gives you an idea on how big that battle is.
As for those trolls, while wisely seldom seen, and at first only hinted at like the shark in Jaws, they come in all shapes and sizes. The filmmakers decided to use traditional looking trolls, and not just random big scary things with fangs and claws. While they appear weird, and often downright goofy at times, it is their unique look and variety that makes this movie stand out. You really never know what exactly you’ll see next when these Christian hating (yes, they’re not fans of Jesus and his followers) monsters take the screen. And it is rare instances like this, when movies need to show something truly fantastic and unreal, that I think my dreaded enemy, CGI, should be used. NOT as a cheap copout for gunshot wounds and blood effects that could be done better with practical makeup effect. But that’s a rant for another day…
Back to a more pleasant topic: there are a few goodies on this new Blu-ray from Magnolia’s Magnet division worth discussing. However it must be said that some of the usual extras you’ve come to expect are missing on this disc, but that’s sadly par for the course when it comes to foreign films. Case in point, there’s no director’s commentary track here. As a commentary track junky, it always makes me wonder why they just can’t get a translator to come in for this. Anyway, there is a nice 23 minute behind the scenes featurette, and a shorter HDNet look at the movie. Then there are the usual suspects like trailers, photo galleries, deleted and extended scenes, and even a blooper reel. Perhaps the best “extra” for many will be the full 5.1 English audio track in addition to the original Norwegian one. So if you avoid foreign films out of hatred for subtitles, well then you’ve got no excuse to let this groovy little movie pass you by.
I really dug this weird little flick. It wasn’t terribly deep but it sure was a whole lot of big monster fun. The acting and direction are both competent and the landscape is truly breathtaking and has that rugged, primeval feel that you could believe had trolls living in it. If you’re a fan of monster flicks then do yourself a favor and check out Troll Hunter. I’m betting you’ll dig it too.