[Blu-ray Review] ‘Troll Hunter’

America really doesn’t have much folklore and mythology. Yes, there’s Paul Bunyan, an overhyped gunslinger or two and bigfoot, but there’s not many fantastic elements to distinctly American campfire stories – the best ones we have stateside are based in Creole culture, not even our own. It’s a touch depressing to know that we’re too young of a country to have weaved any great cultural yarns while Europe is swimming in superstitious lore. The troll, a creature that’s no stranger to the screen, never really got its due before Troll Hunter came along. Mixing old-world charm with modern-day dark humor, the mockumentary approach works well for its Jurassic Park meets Men In Black angle.
With a rash of bear attacks hitting the Norwegian countryside, a group of college kids (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck and Tomas Alf Larsen) set out to film a documentary about the situation. Their investigation leads them to Hans (Otto Jespersen), a poacher who the would-be news team suspects is hunting down the violent animals. He refuses to give them an interview, so they follow him as he travels the country, hoping to get video evidence of the killer bears. The truth is far more bizarre than they imagined, as they learn that Hans is employed by the government-run TSS – Troll Security Service – and it’s not blood-thirsty Bjørns tearing up the country but a mythical creature thought to be nothing but folklore.

André Øvredal and Håvard S. Johansen’s script does a great job of establishing and exploring the mythology that it works with. There are different breeds of troll and the variations are discussed between the slightly disgruntled hunter – think Quint from Jaws – and his inexperienced shadowers. The film’s tone isn’t quite straight-faced and isn’t super silly, striking a balance between the faux-realism set up by the cinema verite style and rules and the low-budget CGI and parody of bureaucracy – a topic not explored this well since Brazil. Adding that extra layer of playfulness with the Jurassic Park references (the goat being offered as bait and “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” shot, among others) is only the icing on the cake.

Troll Hunter is supposed to look like it was shot on a digital camera by an unseasoned cameraman, so Magnet’s 1080p transfer isn’t gorgeous, but it is faithful to the source material. Nighttime scenes looks murky and grainy, but the lit interiors and daytime exteriors look immaculate with strong detail and color levels. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is the exact opposite, having a much higher quality than it should considering that it’s supposed to sound like it was recorded by someone with a mic. The sound design is way too elaborate in that respect, but it works well with the film’s scope and adds to the half-in half-out level of realism Troll Hunter‘s world thrives in. The disc also has a smattering of bonus features, including a really interesting look at the special effects and fun behind-the-scenes doc.

Special Features

Deleted Scenes (03:35) – A collection of five excised scenes, some running under thirty seconds. There’s nothing remarkable about them, but the one entitled `Troll Hairball’ is worth a chuckle or two.

Improv and Bloopers (02:06) – I think it’s cool that these are included on various releases, but they’re rarely funny. Troll Hunter‘s are not an exception.

Extended Scenes (07:55) – Three extended scenes, involving Hans investigating some power outages, more with Poiter’s Painter Service (which is good but goes on a bit too long), and more of Hans explaining the ins-and-outs of the TSS at a diner.

Visual Effects (06:07) – This is treasure of the entire collection of supplements on the discs. A before-and-after comparison of the CG shots, showing the different stages of digital layering in them. There’s a subsection for the various breeds of trolls, which is a cool way to let you get into the dimensional differences between them.

Behind the Scenes (23:25) – A lengthy making-of piece that, for the most part, just shows the cast and crew goofing off. There was apparently a lot of waiting around for shot setups, and the cast spent that time working on their improvisation techniques, along with playfully complaining and composing ridiculous thank you notes after the film wrapped.

HDNET: A Look At Trollhunter (04:21) – A HDNET fluff piece that acts as more of a VOD advertisement than anything else.

Film: 4/5
Blu-ray: 3.5/5