Fantastic Fest Review: Andre Ovredal's Awesome 'Troll Hunter'
by Jeremy Kirk
October 7, 2010
Trolls! It's a premise that could very easily come off campy and without any sincerity at all. The thought of a found footage film about hunting trolls in the forests and mountains of Norway could work against the film. It could illicit laughter from the audience, as ideas of Harry Potter or Gandalf saving the day might fill their distracted heads from what is playing out in the film before them.
Thankfully, with Troll Hunter, director Andre Ovredal has achieved the extremely difficult. He has made up the idea of trolls living out in the wild, he has taken that myth that is so instilled in his own, Norwegian culture, and he has crafted a film that is as terrifying as it is awe-inspiring. Troll Hunter is yet one more instance of a found footage horror film taking its audience and placing it solidly in the middle of frightening and extremely intense situations, and it does so without the slightest sense of unintentional jest.
The film centers on a crew of students who set out to document a potential bear poacher. What they find instead is a government conspiracy and a man whose job it is to keep the trolls of Norway out of the public eye. The man, aged and tired of the life he is leading, agrees to let the students document his job at hand.
I said "unintentional" earlier, because Troll Hunter is not the hardcore, balls-to-the-wall thriller you might expect from other found footage films like Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. The terror here is more of a grand scale, like watching dinosaurs walk the earth rather than hearing strange noises in the woods or in your darkened house. There are moments that are no less terrifying that what might be found in those more horror-driven films, but Troll Hunter is the monster movie equivalent, a Cloverfield-esque sense of style but on a much grander scale.
What Ovredal has done here (he both wrote and directed the film, but, outside of that, there is very little information to be found about this project) is create an entire myth, sometimes delving into the biological elements of it, for the trolls he depicts here.
When the hunter takes the documentary crew to a veterinarian who helps him in his hunts, the vet explains, somewhat scientifically, no less, the way trolls' inner biology works and why they react the way they do when hit with sunlight. In essence, some trolls turn to stone and some just explode into gushy piles. It's something Ovredal takes from the myths of his homeland, the stories of old about trolls and puts those rules to the task of modern science.
The moments these rules are put to the test, though, are some of the more breathtaking moments in the film. The hunter draws the trolls in, and he unleashes with a flood of UV rays. None of this would work, mind you, were it not for incredible CG effects, and Ovredal never allows those effects from falling short of amazing. The concept of found footage and the shaky camera techniques that ensue from that help hide any problems poor CG might create. However, judging from what we actually do see of the trolls here, it wouldn't be a problem if everything were shot in impeccably smooth HD.
The effects as well as the design of the trolls in Troll Hunter are brilliant, and they work together to create an even bigger presence in the viewer's mind. Ovredal takes us from the darkened theater and puts us squarely deep in the woods or inside an abandoned mine shaft or out among the mountainous regions. Each area has its own, specific troll native to it, and each, respective scene grows in its elaborate intensity to the point where we genuinely feel like we are riding inside the crew's vehicle, attempting to avoid being stepped on by a creature 20 times our own size.
While the final moments of Troll Hunter, no specifics on narrative included, are a true work of cinematic brilliance and creates some of the best suspense seen in recent memory, it also becomes somewhat hindered by the government conspiracy angle of it all. It has to come into play. Ovredal sets it up and plays it out throughout the entirety of the film. Unfortunately, as with most of these found footage films, it all ends abruptly and with very little resolution. The ending subtitles explain a bit, and an epilogue of a news conference creates an intense laugh, one that makes the viewer wonder how much of it was real or not. However, that serves the overall idea. The narrative is left as open as a blown-out door.
Despite this, Troll Hunter remains a triumph of found footage intensity, a monster movie rollercoaster ride that puts enough story and development into everything to the giant footsteps matter. Those footsteps resonate throughout the theater, and not since a particularly giant lizard roamed the streets of Tokyo have audiences been introduced to something so awesome. In the truest sense of the word, Troll Hunter is awesome, a highly entertaining, incredibly suspenseful, and near perfect film that will surely do for the mountains of Norway what Jaws did for the open water.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 10 Comments
How can I go about seeing this movie? Legally, that is?
Dean on Oct 7, 2010
Sounds good! Been waiting for a review about a month ago when you talked about this =D Better than Cloverfield you say? Looking forward to it, know when it will come out in the EU?
Joe on Oct 7, 2010
Opens in Norway on the weekend of Halloween.
David Banner on Oct 8, 2010
Remember the original movie called Troll? Scared me as a kid but now it's kinda campy to see.
judasbarron on Oct 8, 2010
Hopefully one of these US companies will hurry up and scope this up so we can see it!As awesome as the movie is, I can't believe there isn't a bidding war going on...long live giant monster movies! I love them!!
jah p on Oct 8, 2010
of course it doesnt have a U.S. distributor...anything that has even a hint of real talent is going to be banned so that we have to tolerate the usual substandard crap from our own hacks here in Hollywood....
bone on Oct 11, 2010
Well, According to newspapers here in Norway, there actually IS a bidding war going on, athough no details are offered: Article from GD (Gudbrandsdølen Dagningen) a local paper covering Dovre, a major location in the film Original: http://www.gd.no/kultur/article5339742.ece Google translated for convenience: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gd.no%2Fkultur%2Farticle5339742.ece (It seems google translate struggles with norwegian, I can translate it myself If anyone want a proper translation, but it doesn't say much.) There have been remarcably little coverage of the film here in the old country, as with many other european countries we are so obsessed with america and their culture it passes right by when we actually produces something worthwile ourselves. I also recommend the films Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/trolljegeren As a side note, Although we only see Otto Jespersen in the trailer considering he play the trollhunter himself, two other major norwegian comedians (oxymoron?) pop up in name only, Knut Nærum and Robert Stoltenberg. All others are names not known to me, but these three are known to be brilliant (imo). Nærum is a presenter i Norways biggest TV sucess, our version of BBCs "Have I got news for you" known for his deadpan delivery. He is also a writer, but i doubt anything of his is available internationally. Jespersen does a lot of political comedy, he fronted a program called "Rikets Røst" or "Voce of the Land/Empire/People", and has made a name for himself as something of a scandalous personality, burning our flag on air and insulting pretty much every prominent figure we have over here. I suspect Stoltenberg is a brilliant character actor, although again I have only seen him do comedy. He starred in a series called "Borettslaget" ("apartment complex" or something similiar) where he played every character in an apartmentbuilding. Not having seen the movie I don't know how big of a role Nærum and Stoltenberg play, but I hope to see quite a bit of them Btw, the IMDb page is up: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1740707/ I plowed the online newspapers and scanned the blogspace for info on the film to share with you. 80% of what I found was in english. I might have seriously misjudged the magnitude of the exitement for the film however, so i'll leave it at that. You have only to ask if any of you want (hopefully more accurate) translations of the small piece of norwegian media about this movie or somesuch.
Roald Thunes Karlsen on Oct 16, 2010
Well, according to norwegian moviesite filmweb.no, the troll hunter has been picked up for international distribution by Magnolia Pictures, and is "guaranteed" cinematic release in major cities across the US. http://www.filmweb.no/filmnytt/article392316.ece "Produsenten Filmkameratene AS inngikk i dag en avtale med Magnolia Pictures i New York om internasjonal distribusjon i alle land utenfor Europa. Avtalen garanterer "Trolljegeren" kinolansering i alle de største amerikanske byene, noe som er vanskelig selv for amerikanske produsenter, så en slik garanti er helt spesiell. " "The production company Filmkameratene AS today made an agreement with Magnolia Pictures in New York for international distribution in all countries outside Europe. The agreement guarantees "The Troll Hunter" cinematic release in all the largest american cities, a feat difficult even for american producers, so such an guarantee is very special."
Roald Thunes Karlsen on Oct 19, 2010
Thank you very much Roald. I wish most Americans were as Avid about films as you are. I was excited for information reading the review and you presented it brilliantly. Thanks!
The Guest on Mar 10, 2011
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