This filmed screened as part of Empire Big Screen.
Choosing to take the well trodden ‘found footage’ path that, over the last decade has slowly created itself as a recognized sub category of both the horror and thriller genres, Troll Hunter is difficult not to describe as a more farcical Blair Witch Project or adrenaline force fed Catfish. Indeed there’s a plethora of shaky camera shots as our protagonists run in fear, supplemented with generic close ups of scared faces that at first make you feel like you’re observing a carbon copy of these cheaply made shock pieces. However, the instant we’re thrust into the depths of Troll Hunter‘s gloriously exhilarating interpretation of the Norwegian wilderness and its world of ancient mythology, it becomes instantly clear that this lazy journalistic stereotyping would be a total disservice to what is a uniquely creative, tongue in cheek piece of lovingly assured film making.
We follow a small inexperienced group of college film students hot on the tale of a bear poacher whose been causing something of a stir amongst the local community. The man’s a recluse, only leaving his trailer under the cover of nightfall before vanishing into the hauntingly isolated woodlands which envelop the roaming countryside of this rural northern territory of Norway. Whilst tracking him on one of these late night excursions our young documentary makers find themselves lost in the darkness whilst the forest which surrounds them throbs with an unnatural energy, an energy which soon explodes into a flurry of panic and activity. Fuelled by a mixture of fear and adrenaline these intrepid students soon discover this poachers chosen game is certainly no bear, he’s a Troll Hunter, a man employed by the government to keep these monstrous creatures at bay and most importantly out of sight of humans. However, he’s recently become disenfranchised with the job, especially the long work hours and lack of overtime pay. Yet the unconventional nature of his chosen profession means there’s no union with which to lodge a formal grievance, so instead he decides to allow our fearless and persistent filmmakers to accompany him, exposing the existence of these terrifying beasts and leaving him to pursue a more conventional career path.
As you’d expect Troll Hunter is full of heart pounding action and edge of seat suspense, yet its biggest achievement has to be its meticulous use of humour to convey its surprisingly engrossing back story. Never coming across as cheap or misplaced the troll hunter’s blasé attitude in explaining the difference between the childhood myths about trolls and the actuality of their existence (for example the revelation that they can smell the blood of a Christian so no ‘believers’ are to be present on the hunt) makes for a incomparably enjoyable experience which pulls the film out of the contrived gutter of cheap shocks most found footage film’s inevitably find themselves dependant on. Indeed it’s this attention to detail and seemingly thorough research into these age old Scandinavian myths that makes Troll Hunter more than just a thrilling piece of throw away cinema but an essential piece of comedy adventure which will undeniably become something of a cult classic amongst cinephiles. Acting as a solid foundation for the films ludicrous premise, these bizarrely transfixing collections of tall tales and childhood fables curiously helps the film remain moderately stepped in realism and ultimately creates a narrative equally as immersive as the cherished fantasy films of your youth.
Thanks primarily to how the film expertly handles its palpable level of brooding tension, thanks to some skilfully created sound design and sumptuously presented visual effects, the moment you first lay your eyes on one of these Trolls, in all their horrific glory, it becomes difficult not to be taken by surprise at how impressively the sit amongst the bleak, rainy backdrop of their isolated territory. The ability to suspend your disbelief is never in question, with the film’s creativity (evident in the numerous troll designs) managing to keep the audience’s interest peaked throughout, which, combined with a well paced narrative culminates in a frantic, adrenaline rush of a film which constantly manages to titillate without ever feeling overly farcical.
With the exception of our central protagonist, the cast, as so often is the case with these mockumentaries, appear a little too one dimensional for the film to be truly classified as the resounding success many have claimed Troll Hunter to be. Yet, the sublime use of the astoundingly beautiful Norwegian countryside almost seems to add a whole new well- rounded character to the story, counter balancing what, all in all, in a minuscule gripe at an otherwise surprisingly unique and enjoyable film, which, both manages to excite and amuse in equal measures.
Troll Hunter is out in UK cinemas 9th September 2011.
DIRECTOR: ANDRE ØVREDAL
STARS: OTTO JESPERSEN, GLENN ERLAND TOSTERUD, JOHANNA MORCK, TOMAS ALF LARSEN
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX