| Trollhunter



André Øvredal

Norway, 2010


Review by Katherine Follett

Posted on 06 October 2012

Source Netflix Instant

Categories 31 Days of Horror IX

Three Norwegian film students head to the remote northern regions of the country to track down a suspected bear poacher. Late one night, they follow the poacher on a trek through the pitch-black woods. They hear the gurgled roar a very large creature, and the camera catches the poacher crashing through the forest, terrified. When he stumbles into his trackers, he hesitates for only a moment before screaming, “TROOLLLL!”

This might be the most frightening moment in Trollhunter, a 2010 Norwegian horror film, and it comes less than a third of the way through the running time. Luckily, Trollhunter is a wonderfully imaginative bit of filmmaking, and shifts seamlessly into a mix of comedy, re-imagined folklore, and a subtly touching character study. It’s presented as Blair Witch-style found-footage (thankfully, one made by more capable and professional film students than its inspiration), and the technique, however overused, gives the film a fun, scrappy, B-movie feel that belies its sophistication and subtlety.

In Norway, trolls are part of Norse myth and national folklore, though today they’re relegated mostly to nursery rhymes and children’s stories. Once the film students accept that the “poacher” Hans is actually hunting trolls, they pepper him with the tropes they know from childhood. Have they ever challenged you to an eating contest? Can they smell the blood of a Christian? Do they turn to stone? Hans gruffly says that not everything in fairy tales is true. As he slowly opens up, we learn that in this retelling, trolls are simply animals. They do turn to stone - or explode - upon exposure to sunlight, but for complicated (and frankly, implausible) biochemical reasons. The students’ first encounter is a creature with three heads; according to Hans, the extra two heads are “protuberances” the males grow to intimidate other males and attract females.

Trolls usually stay contained in territories in the remoter regions of Norway, throwing rocks, chewing on old tires, and stealing the occasional sheep. Hans’s job is to track down and destroy any troll that becomes a nuisance and to cover up its existence for the Norwegian government. Hans is the only troll hunter in Norway. He and his stuffy bureaucrat boss are the only things keeping Norwegians from realizing their nation is infested with 50-foot monsters. Recently, trolls have been breaking out of their territories and wreaking havoc in record numbers, running Hans to the breaking point. He allows the film crew to follow him and blow the conspiracy because, frankly, he’s sick of the job: bad hours, no overtime, no “nuisance” compensation (whatever that is; spoiled Europeans).

After some skillful frights at the beginning, the story takes a turn toward comedy. Once the trolls come out of the shadows, they look a bit goofy, snorting through huge, cartoonish noses. Hans is a great protagonist, carefully balanced between funny, pragmatic, badass, and just vulnerable enough to receive our empathy. He dons a homemade suit of armor and foot-long syringe to get a blood sample from a beast, muttering, “God, I hate this crap.” His reeking, half-demolished trailer is full of weapons and explosives, but also lonely, childlike drawings of the trolls he has known. The students steal a shot of him embracing a female veterinarian—one of the few other people who shares the burden of the conspiracy. As he prepares to battle a rabid 200-foot monster, he yells the students, “I hope you have the footage you need,” as a kind of selfless goodbye.

Even after the film becomes more silly than scary, it keeps the excitement up with well-paced chases, tense standoffs, and a few moments of creepy suspense. It foreshadows trouble for a few of the film students so subtly and naturalistically as to almost be missed. The ending - mysterious, abrupt, and unsatisfying - is one of the few moments where it seems like the filmmakers ran out of ideas. Otherwise, the film is completely fresh—the only other movie it reminded me of was the equally hilarious and human Korean creature film The Host. Perhaps an unfamiliar cultural perspective is just what a horror movie needs to be able to offer inventive entertainment like Trollhunter.

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