We got the Blu-Ray for Troll Hunter a few weeks back, but I’d read some unflattering reviews about this being yet another found footage film like The Blair Witch Project. After having watched the film, I feel that’s a bit unfair, as this movie is more like Cloverfield, only with a less shaky camera and a much better attempt to actually show the monsters.
The story starts with three college students, Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle, who are on the trail of a man named Hans, who appears to be a bear poacher. The students are initially trying to track him to find out why he is poaching in the town of Volda, but their chase soon begins to reveal that Hans is dealing with something much bigger than a bear. Hans’ truck is covered in claw marks that no bear could make, and his camper trailer stinks of something muskier than a bear.
After a week of pursuit, the trio finds Hans running away from something, and as he sees the kids, he shouts “Troll!” and keeps running. Thomas is bitten, but not badly enough to need more than minor first aid. On the other hand, their car is mauled and unserviceable. Hans offers to take them home, and then makes a more compelling offer: he will let them film his troll hunt.
One of the blurbs on the box compares this movie to Jurassic Park, and I’d agree with that. When the trolls are on screen, I was never scared. This is not to say the trolls looked fake. But like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, these beasts filled me with a sense of awe and fascination. Of course, if I saw trolls for real, my reaction would be closer to the students’ screaming terror. But in the comfort and safety of my living room, my attitude was a bit more laid back.
Hans works for Norway’s government in secret, and he reports to a bureaucrat named Finn. Finn’s job is to keep the existence of trolls a secret. Like most middle managers, he’s not very good at his job, leading to some laugh out loud moments during his bumbling efforts at blaming bears for troll attacks.
Hans makes it clear that something very unusual is happening to make the trolls leave their territories, and that this kind of mass migrations is extremely rare. When the reason is revealed, I felt it was logical and satisfying as an answer. The writers put some thought into the science of trolls, and they didn’t just make up some CGI monsters and have them chase people around.
Something else I really liked was Hans’ answer when Thomas calls him a national hero. Hans doesn’t feel like a hero at all, and he feels his job is dirty and cruel. Late in the film, he explains why he feels this way, and it makes his character more real for me. He’s not a larger than life adventurer, but a man given a job, one he’s grown tired of.
The film does not have a happy ending, but then this is foreshadowed at the very start, so I wasn’t too upset about it. I’d feel differently if I had the impression of being tricked, but again there’s no trick here, just a fascinating story that brings to life fairy tale monsters with amazing results. Although Hans says these monsters have nothing to do with children’s stories, there is a really funny moment when he uses goats as bait to draw a troll out from under a bridge. I got it, having read the story of the three billy goats many times. Hubby, however, was completely mystified over why I was laughing suddenly. So I think your level of enjoyment will depend on how well you know troll fairy tails.
I will admit that the found footage theme causes problems at times, such as having to watch events through a broken camera for roughly ten minutes, or the sometime shaky chase scenes becoming a bit confusing. But the actors give me the impression of being real people, and unlike The Blair Witch Project, which teased the viewer but never showed anything scary, Troll Hunter delivers plenty of troll action to make the shaky camera work worth it.
So, if you’ve been avoiding this because of a bad review about the camera, please reconsider. This is not nearly as shaky as Cloverfield, and Kalle is a much better cameraman. When the camera does get unsteady, it’s because Kalle is either running for his life or shaking with fear. So in this respect, it lends another aspect of realism to an already realistic film.
I give Troll Hunter 4 stars out of five, and recommend it to anyone who grew up reading about trolls in fairy tails. You will love this movie, and even if it ends badly, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.