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Troll Hunter (2010)
Director: André Øvredal

review by Max Cairnduff

Troll Hunter arrived in the UK with a big marketing push and a lot of hype. Perhaps a little too much hype for what is ultimately quite a small film. It isn't the Citizen Kane of horror cinema, and it isn't without a few problems (particularly in terms of pacing). For all that though, I really enjoyed Troll Hunter and I think most horror fans, provided they're not expecting a masterpiece, will really enjoy it too.

Troll Hunter is a 'found footage' movie. A disclaimer at the start states that Troll Hunter has been put together from the images shot by a student film crew, that it's not clear if what's shown is true or false, but that none of the images appear to have been manipulated. We're in the same territory here as films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, the marvellous [REC], or the distinctly less marvellous [REC] 2 or Diary Of The Dead.

The students are tracking what they believe to be a bear poacher, bear hunting being apparently a licenced activity in Norway. Of course as the title suggests what they're actually tracking is a troll hunter: a government agent dedicated to finding and killing trolls that have broken out of the nature reserve areas allocated to them by the Norwegian government. The hunter is followed by another government agent who provides deeply unconvincing Men In Black style explanations for the troll attacks and blames it all on rogue bears. Does that premise sound a bit silly? That's what's best about this film. It's incredibly silly, but played absolutely straight.

Hans, the troll hunter, is played by Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen who is on brilliant form here. He's utterly deadpan, explaining to the students that he's decided to share the secrets of troll hunting with them as he's sick of the job. The pension benefits are poor and there's no night-working allowance. He checks that none of the students are Christians (the trolls can smell Christian blood) but doesn't see the trolls as in any way supernatural. To him they're animals that he's responsible for, and after each kill he fills out the requisite government forms.

The CGI is worked in pretty well, but the result isn't at all scary. The trolls are a bit ludicrous, and while they look fairly realistic that just means they look realistically ludicrous. Troll Hunter aims much more at satire than fear.

The Norwegian government is covering up the existence of monsters as tall as trees, some much taller. Trolls rampage across a farm and nobody really notices. A troll stashes butchered animals under a bridge, and the government explanation is that a bear was storing food up for winter like a squirrel. The Norwegian electricity grid is used to provide what is effectively a giant electric fence to keep the trolls in to the uninhabited areas of northern Norway where they can be kept hidden.

Why? What's the point of this bizarre conspiracy? The government keeps it all secret because, well, because it does. There doesn't seem to be any particularly good reason not to admit the trolls exist, but the clean-up man is increasingly unhappy that the troll hunter now has a film crew attached. It's secret because it's a secret, and because there's a bureaucracy in place dedicated to keeping that secret.

Troll Hunter comes in at around 90 minutes and would be a better film at 80 or 85 minutes. At times there's a little too much Norwegian countryside, beautiful as it is, and a few too many car conversations that don't really matter. At times in fact it's a little slow. Despite that criticism though it is genuinely very funny and the idea is inspired. Early on I compared Troll Hunter to other found-footage films, but it's not really like any of them. It's much more imaginative, and like the other recent Norwegian horror import Dead Snow it seems to take itself completely seriously while still being completely aware of its own absurdity.

The DVD release comes with the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, 'improvisations and bloopers' (none of which added much to life), extended scenes, a short feature on the visual effects, a behind the scenes feature and photo galleries. It's of course in Norwegian, with English subtitles.

Troll Hunter



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