Glenn Erland Tosterud
Tomas Alf Larsen
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Troll Hunter (2011)
20th Apr 12
If you go down to the Norwegian woods today you’ll be sure of a big surprise. A VERY big surprise! No bears just ginormous smelly grumpy trolls giving our Troll Hunter and amateur documentary film crew plenty to keep them on their toes.
Aside from the odd troll encounter in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise audiences probably only associate trolls with those small dolls with smiley faces and brightly coloured hairdos from hell and of course the likes of fairytales that involve Three Billy Goats Gruff (referenced in one of the movie’s key encounters). There’s also the rather dodgy Eighties flick called Troll and its dire 1990 sequel Troll 2. So let’s start afresh with Troll Hunter as for various reasons it really does need to be considered aside from the aforementioned flicks.
You know how it goes. You’ve heard great things about a movie only to catch it a few months’ later and find expectations through the roof only to finish watching and wonder quite what all the fuss was about. There was a danger of that with writer / director André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter, or Trolljegeren to give it its original title. However this mock documentary, which apes the found footage approach of the likes of The Blair Witch Project, the resulting movie couldn’t be more different. Sparkling with invention and a wry sense of humour Troll Hunter is deserving of the praise that’s been heaped upon it by open-minded critics and audiences alike and more than lives up to the expectations one has for it.
For three Volda University students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and their camera-man Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), what starts off as an investigation into illegally slain bears found in Norway soon takes them into realms they would never ever have even considered or indeed comprehended. They tail Hans (Otto Jespersen) suspecting him to be a bear poacher only to discover that Hans is in fact a troll hunter with the bear carcasses there to distract and cover up troll activity. Much to the annoyance of Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen), the head of the Norwegian Wildlife Board, Hans takes the three youngsters onboard to lift the lid on the existence of trolls. What’s more a number of wayward dangerous trolls have escaped from their realm and are encroaching on civilization with each encountered more varied and dangerous than before.
Constantly compelling and able to evoke edge-of-the-seat tension, thrills and laughs to it’s rather abrupt climax – albeit with a terrific sequence where our political foe, Finn Haugen, shifts uncomfortably as the Prime Minister makes an unwanted and unexpected statement – there’s never a dull moment to be had and that extends to the rather delightful disc extras that show that the film was as much fun to make as it is for us to watch. There’s none of those sycophantic niceties that clog up disc space on a number of current American releases. It’s just evident that despite long waits for shots to be set up and sometimes cancelled these guys had a blast making Troll Hunter and that relaxed vibe enhances the finished product.
So immersed in the film are you that you completely forget that this is pure fiction, buying into every encounter – aside from that rather shifty looking three headed beastie towards the start – to the point you are left wanting and gagging for more come the end credits. With likeable performances, especially from Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas, a dead ringer for the shorter one from Ant and Dec, with his cheeky chappy persona Troll Hunter is a triumph on every level. The effects work is impressive, supervised by Øystein Larsen. Aside from the first troll we encounter absolutely gobsmacking effects, especially the face-off upon a bridge and the rather large ugly they tackle at the end - given the limited budget overall we buy into them and believe in them completely and the breathtaking Norwegian locations definitely add to the overall effect.
Do you know your Ringlefinch from your Rimetosser? Nope I didn’t think so but rest assured we get the lowdown on each troll type which ensures that any gaps in troll knowledge are dropped into conversation; from their being able to smell Christians to turning to stone and exploding with sunlight or powerful UV rays from Hans’ ‘flash gun’. From the team being trapped as Mountain Trolls sleep and fart within their cave to the climatic showdown with the two hundred foot Jotnar there’s both laughs and an abundance of thrills to be had.
Troll Hunter been likened as a cross between The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. I’d sit better with the mix of Jurassic Park in place of the latter. Ok trolls are fantastical and dinosaurs aren’t, however the thrills are closer to viewing Spielberg’s classic than the shaky camera Godzilla wannabe.
As with all great foreign language movies the rights to produce an American remake were snapped up pretty much immediately that Troll Hunter lurched into theatres and festivals. Generally adverse to sampling movies made outside of their own native tongue Hollywood steals magpie-like before consequently soiling every gem they snaffle. Given that Home Alone director Chris Columbus’s company 1492 has acquired the remake rights do yourselves a huge favour before audiences unfamiliar with the original wonder what the fuss was initially about when the inevitable kiddified and franchised out version hits cinemas sometime in 2014.
To quote the movie’s tagline “You'll believe it when you see it!” and damn right you will. If you’ve yet to sample the unique and exciting visual thrill ride that is Troll Hunter then cancel all plans for Saturday night, invite a few like-minded friends over and have the best fun you can possibly have with your clothes on. The ingredients may occasionally be familiar, but Troll Hunter always has another surprise up its sleeve and its basis in dark fairy tales makes it all the more impressive that the film achieves the basic goal of any found-footage feature: You never stop believing what you’re seeing. In part the actors especially Otto Jespersen as Hans, our troll hunter, delivering their lines in a such a matter of fact fashion you buy into the dynamic wholesale feeling Hans’ weariness at his lot and the student’s awe at the world unfolding before them.
Along with Drive and Kill ListTroll Hunter is up there as one of the absolute best movies released in the UK for 2011 and that’s top recommendation indeed.
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