It’s back to frosty Norway… home of the vikings… those big singing Valkyrie women…. Lutefisk… and Trolls. Big honking, man eating giant Trolls. Yep…. Trolls… roaming all over the place doing whatever it is that Trolls do. Would your Favorite Catgirl Princess ever steer you wrong? Well… only if the latest fantasy film from that chilly Scandinavian locale has lied to me, that is… Hehehehe!! So this time out, I thought we’d take a look at “Troll Hunter” and ask ourselves that very question: “Trolls? Real or not?”
The synopsis? Well that goes like this: “A group of film students set out to make a documentary about a supposed bear poacher, Hans (Otto Jespersen). The students follow Hans through the wilderness of Western Norway to try to interview him, but he simply tells them to go away. They persist, and as they follow him into a forest, they see flashing lights and hear roars from something larger than a bear. Hans comes running back to his vehicle, screaming “Troll!” They all seek refuge in his car, as their own is now turned over with the tires eaten. Afterward, when the students ask if they can join Hans in his hunt and film it, he agrees. The next day, they follow Hans to film a document of his work as he sets out to kill all the trolls that have broken out of their territories, and to find out why they have started to break out now and not earlier.”
I saw the Trailer for this one some time back, and it’s been teasing me ever since… but now my wait is over. Just out on Region 1 DVD with those ever so helpful English subtitles I crave, it’s available from the good folks at Magnet for me to enjoy. I just know it’s probably on your list too… especially if you like the same sort of crazy films I do, so how about we all settle down and let a certain crazy movie addicted Catgirl tell you all about it?
First off, we begin our film with that standard narrative bit that always starts these “Cinéma vérité” sorts of faux-documentary films. You know the one… it always teases us about the “recently recovered documentary footage carefully pieced together after the event“. The “event”? Yep…. so already we know something particularly nasty has happened to the people in the footage, so there goes just about any chance of rooting for our hapless film students to survive the story…. Darn….
At least “Troll Hunter” resists the urge to go all eye-wrenchingly “shaky cam” on us for the next 90 minutes or so… Because had it done that, I really think your Favorite Catgirl might just have gone completely insane after my last visit to that particular style of movie story-telling, as seen in Korea’s “Deserted House” which I reviewed here some time back. Thank goodness.There’s a little of that of course… just to make you remember that it’s all happening “live and on camera”, but mostly the film makes a great effort to actually be watchable, good since you’ll most certainly want to get a good look at our title monsters, when they finally make their appearance about 30 minutes into our story.
So what the heck is going on anyways? Well… it seems that a small group of film students, Thomas (played by Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (played by Johanna Mørck), and Kalle (played by Tomas Alf Larsen) are all set to do a big “exposé” on the illegal poaching trade in bears that is happening in Norway. They fix their sights on the mysterious figure of Hans (played by Otto Jespersen). He’s always roaming around in his super customized land rover near all the sites of recent “bear attacks”, but all the other licensed hunters claim he’s not one of them… that he’s definitely “up to no good”…. and he certainly acts all mysterious and just plain odd. They work up their courage to approach him… hoping to bluff him into giving them an interview on his illegal activities, but Hans isn’t fazed in the least and just plain tells them to “Get lost”…. Given what ends up happening, they probably should have taken that advice.
Eventually… they find out that Hans, far from being a simple poacher, is in reality Norway’s one and only “Troll Hunter”. He works for the Norwegian Ministry of Wildlife and the Interior to be their guy in charge of keeping track of Norway’s population of wild Trolls. He’s basically “Crocodile Dundee meets the Horse Whisperer” when it comes to knowing just about anything and everything regarding the super secret race of monsters. Ahhh… and he’s getting fed up at being underpaid, overworked, and kept just plain secret as all get out. So what’s he going to do about it? Why let our intrepid lil’ group of film students take a good long look at what’s really lurking in the woodlands of rural Norway.
Here’s where the film is at it’s most fun. It becomes a bizarre cryptozoological nature documentary. Want to know what Trolls eat? Would you believe concrete, charcoal, and tires? So what happens when they get exposed to daylight? Why they either turn to stone… or explode like giant zits…. silly…. what else would Trolls do? They can actually smell Christians….and boy, they don’t seem to like them either!! Not certain why… but there you go. The film has just oodles and oodles of great folklore stuff like this, all presented in the most serious and scientific ways possible. If there’s any problem at all… it’s that it’s all presented in too serious a fashion. I’m thinking a little levity wouldn’t have spoiled things… after all… Trolls are just plain goofy when you think about them.
Our kids all have quite the experience following Hans as he unravels the film’s main story plot: “Why are the Trolls all suddenly leaving their remote havens and wandering into human inhabited areas after centuries of avoiding mankind?” They find out, all right… and get to meet the scariest Troll of them all, the rare giant Jotun Troll, a fella that could give King Kong a run for his money.
I have to say… this film is an odd bird. All in all I liked it, but it did have some issues. I think a bit more character development wouldn’t have hurt things overall. Our characters here are all pretty much the stock ones you’d expect in a film like this. You don’t get any real sense of individuality from any of them… and while Hans is perhaps the most interesting of them all, he’s basically “the strong silent loner” we’ve seen in a hundred such genre films. The effects… all done digitally… are not the most sophisticated out there, but are well done and definitely effective for what they are. If these sorts of “fake-cumentary” films chock loaded with bizarre “government conspiracy” themes are your idea of fun, “Troll Hunter” ought to make you one happy camper. Neko gives it all 3 “Meows” out of 5…. it’s good, but just not funny enough or strange enough to score really big as a new take on this old idea. Still… it’s definitely worth a look, and you could certainly do worse for an evening of movie watching fun…. and that’s never a bad thing, now is it?
The Region 1 DVD by Magnet? As always… a class act, done wide-screen and in NTSC format with excellent English subtitles, it comes with the expected Trailer and extras needed to fill out a movie lover’s experience for this one. It’s available most places, for a pretty good price too… around 12-15$ US.
Yep…. there’s a Trailer, and you just know I’d never let you miss out on one of those now would you?