Norwegian monster flick falls into "found footage" conventions, but has fun along the way.
Published: August 31, 2011
Magnet DVD and Blu-ray
Things you may not know about Norway, if you are the average semiclueless American: First, it is quite gorgeous, in its spartan, Scandinavian way, highlighted by wind-scrubbed peaks, dense forests, towering waterfalls, and snowy rolling hills. Second, Norwegians have a thing about trolls, which function as half folkloric icon, half kitsch mascot, or something like that. Third, the country has displayed a knack for accomplished, fun-loving genre flicks recently, first with 2009’s Nazi-zombie yarn Dead Snow, and now with André Øvredal’s TrollHunter.
Tapping the all-but-tapped-out “found footage” gambit, Øvredal’s second feature purports to be the work of a fresh-faced college-student film crew—Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna ( Johanna Mørck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen)—investigating bear hunting, and then bear poaching, except the secretive woodsman everyone suspects of illegally killing ursines is, as the crew discovers, after bigger game. Hans (Otto Jespersen, who looks sort of like a more butch version of Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton) is a troll hunter. And not just an enthusiast or freelancer, but a government employee.
From there, TrollHunter proceeds a bit like a JV version of The X-Files, broken up by periodic set pieces involving the trolls themselves, hulking CGI creatures of various gnarled shapes and sizes, each helped out in the realism department by the species’ nocturnal nature. Øvredal’s action scenes actually get a boost from the found-footage approach, as the panicked film crew flees through dark forests, tree-trunk-legged trolls on their heels, or watches from a distance, hidden, as Hans takes a pounding. Likewise, the film’s extra-dry wit is a boon in spots. When Hans wants to lure a particular troll out into the open, he sets up an ambush on a bridge by casually staking out (wait for it) three goats.
The film’s light touch isn’t always a plus. The film-crew members are clean-cut ciphers and Hans remains opaque, thus the dramatic stakes remain low. Only the final confrontation with a massive troll works up any hint of serious dread. Still, TrollHunter is so blithely creative and seamless in its integration of Nordic folklore, modern bureaucracy/conspiracy tropes, CGI, and genre-flick staples that it’s hard not to have fun watching it. But probably only so much fun.
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