Students making a documentary follow what they think is a bear poacher, only to discover he is a trolljegeren (a TROLL HUNTER), systematically ridding the Norwegian countryside of rogue trolls destroying property, while his governmental gaslighters continue the ruse to news stations that “bears” are responsible for all the havoc.
Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) as interviewer leads a cameraman (Tomas Alf Larsen) and audio girl (Johanna Mørck), unintentionally into the hunt, suddenly realizing what they’re up against when they track the poacher far into the woods and he comes running out screaming, “Troll!” And all fairytale breaks loose, as a 15-foot tall, three-headed humanoid rears out of the woods at them, and is turned to stone by the poacher by hitting it with gigantic lights outfitted on his jeep.
Hans (Otto Jespersen) is a laconic, stoic hunter of trolls, who begrudgingly accedes to being the subject of the students’ documentary because he is sick of the job and wants people to know about the government coverup.
TROLL HUNTER takes itself very seriously, which is why it succeeds. Writer-director André Øvredal’s film opens with title cards warning this is found footage… (eurph! I’m losing my appetite already) Then maintains: “A team of investigators spent more than a year trying to establish whether this was a practical joke or if the material was authentic.” BLACK. Next title: “They concluded it was authentic.”
Hahahahahahaha – Now I have diarrhea…
In the fetid footsteps of THE BLAIR WITCH we go, but then – pleasant surprise, as TROLL HUNTER unleashes one adventure after the next, with well-constructed tension, drama and action scenes, with most of the troll efx being quite good, even though we expect a level of “Sci-Fi Channel” cheapness due to the subject matter itself. (This is a far cry from the 1986 film TROLL, which featured little people wearing huge rubber troll heads, and wallowed in magic and mischief – TROLL HUNTER goes the darker route.)
Before they embark, Hans asks the students, “None of you believe in God or Jesus?” All say No. Because, say the legends, trolls can smell the blood of a Christian man. And the cameraman finds out the hard way that lying about being an atheist is just as bad as telling the truth about being a Christian in Roman Times. (Just like many people who believe they ARE atheist, if a life-or-death situation truly challenged them, many of them would realize they’ve been lying to themselves; it takes a strong mind to be this independent of an invisible safety net, because it’s been bred into us from youth. Also: glad the Christian got eaten…)
We get accustomed to the “found footage” aspect quickly (even though we fall out of the illusion when the night scenes obviously have klieg lights offscreen for the forest to be lit so clearly), and there are many tidbits that give the film a nice quirk: Hans naming the various species of troll in all seriousness (the troll mythology is quite solid, though never beating us over the head); the TSS (Troll Slaying Service that Hans works for, therefore after every kill, must fill out a Slayed Troll Form); in homage to Three Billy Goats Gruff, Hans ties three goats on a bridge to lure a troll – and when it appears, it’s only got one arm!; and Hans strides forth in a Ned Kelly outfit to do battle – just cool after cool… also a moment of introspection when we learn Hans has been scarred by the job – not physically by a troll, but psychologically by his company, who assigned him to massacre a whole tribe, including “women, newborns who could hardly walk…”
After he outfits his jeep like a Mad Max machine and defeats a 200-foot monster (a boss battle, if you will), Hans leaves the students, striding away into the far-off snow. And after all the coverup news reports, a final interview with the real prime minister of Norway (Jens Stoltenberg) sees him saying “Norway has trolls” – it’s part of a longer speech and completely out of context, but hilarious as a final gag.
Or IS it?…