The Troll Hunter (2010) – Directed by André Øvredal – Starring Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg, and
Glenn Erland Tosterud.
It’s amazing to me sometimes the amount of words that I want to write about on a given movie. I really dig TROLLHUNTER, or TROLL HUNTER, or THE TROLL HUNTER, or whatever the preferred translation of TROLLJEGEREN is this week. It’s a completely engaging film, with a unique story, decent effects, and a surprisingly good look despite being on of those hand-held productions like Cloverfield (which I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed) and The Blair Witch Project (which I can’t believe I haven’t watched).
But there’s not a lot to say about it, and here’s why: other than Hans the Troll Hunter (Otto Jespersen), there’s almost zero effort to give us characters. TROLL HUNTER exists solely as an idea – there’s a guy in Norway who hunts trolls, and three college kids follow him.
And that’s it. Even Hans isn’t much of a character. He’s the silent, rough type, traveling around Norway in a beat-up truck and trailer combo, who lets the kids tag along because he’s tired of doing his job and is okay with the public learning about the existence of trolls. The strong, relatively-silent type is a fine archetype, and Hans is a great idea, as dedicated to his job as he is burned out by it, but the film keeps him at arm’s length. Even at the end of the film his actions surprise the college kids.
The three college aren’t characters or even ideas as much as they are functional. Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) exists to ask questions of Hans, Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) exists to film the proceedings, and Johanna (Johanna Mørck) exists to be blonde and cute. There’s no romantic triangle or any kind of conflict between them. They’re just three college pals out to document a bear poacher who ends up being a troll hunter.
The idea behind TROLL HUNTER is that this footage that Kalle (and then later, his replacement Malica) films and that’s been found by a film company who’s edited down all of their work into the film you’re watching. The footage is surprisingly beautiful to look at, and there’s very little of the shaky, headache-creating camera movements of other films in this genre. Wisely, director André Øvredal employs few running and night vision shots, largely saving them for the action sequences that make up the first two-thirds of the movie. At the end, the final battle against the Jotar troll is done in the snow and in daylight, making it rather easy to watch Hans battle the giant.
And that’s really the appeal of TROLL HUNTER, being sucked into this conflict by learning about things we has assumed were just myths. Once the kids get Hans to agree to let them tag along and film what he does, we learn about mountain trolls and cave trolls, about Ringlefinches and Mountain Kings, and we watch Hans hunt them with his UV lights from his disgusting, beat up trailer. The film has clearly thought out the back story, and the “rules” of troll/human contact, but Øvredal’s style isn’t to spend too much time on any of it. Hans makes sure none of the kids are Christians, for instance, because trolls can smell Christian blood, which we see in action later when it turns out Kalle is, in fact, Christian. The truth comes out when they’re trapped in the bowels of a cave, the Mountain Kings having returned before Hans and the kids can escape. Obviously, the kids are a bit spooked but Thomas and Kalle keep it relatively together, while Kalle freaks out, putting them all in danger.
He gets killed for not keeping his sh*t together more than he gets killed for being a Christian, and he’s replaced by Malica. Thomas wants to make sure she’s not Christian, and she replies that she’s a Muslim. “Does that matter?” Thomas asks Hans.
“We’ll find out.”
But sadly, we really don’t, because we’re in the final stretch, and as I mentioned, TROLL HUNTER is less interested in delving into anything as it is in being cool. And it is a really cool movie from start to finish. The special effects are surprisingly good for a film with a reported budget of US$3.5 million. The trolls all look pretty darn awesome, caught somewhere between real and fantastical. There’s a good sense of humor here, too, and the film is paced nearly perfectly, always moving forward and always giving you something new to look at and think about – just as long as you don’t think about it too much.