I found myself constantly laughing as I explained André Øvredal‘s Norwegian The Troll Hunter to my wife. Reflecting back on the “adventure”, it’s impossible not to giggle at the lunacy of it all — but what’s important is that I’m laughing with the movie, not at it. Premiering at this month’s Sundance Film Festival (thanks to Magnet Releasing), this giant creature feature builds an honest mythology that’s seamlessly integrated into “real life”.
In The Troll Hunter a group of students investigate a series of local bear killings that they link to a mysterious hunter. After tailing him, they soon find themselves in the middle of a “giant” government cover-up that involves keeping herds of thousand-year-old trolls in their pre-designated land.
Also penned by Øvredal, the script brilliantly takes the viewer into “the real world” where trolls exist among unknowing humans. Consistently self-aware, the story never takes itself too seriously, and makes sure to answer any questions the viewer might have. Building the mythology at a steady pace, the audience learns as to why UV light hurts a troll, why they sometimes explode and other times turn to stone. The audience also learns of their origins, their brain capacity, and that they’re “mammals”. No stone is left unturned ensuring the audience leave the theater without any questions (sans the lack in explanation as to why trolls hate Christians).
To help the believability of the story, the script comically includes real-life references; such an example would be that power lines are used as an “electric fence” to keep the trolls in their territory. What else put a huge smile on my face was when one of the students gets bitten by a troll, he doesn’t turn into one (thank god).
And although the thriller plays off like a one-trick pony, The Troll Hunter finds a way to build upon itself from scene to scene. The trolls get more and more elaborate while the finale pits the “Hunter” against the biggest troll known to exist. Speaking of size, one of the major downfalls of the film is that we never see any of the trolls destroy anything. The worst thing shown was a slew of trees that were decimated hours before the hunter’s arrival. I wanted to see some destruction!
Maybe the lack of on-screen battle was hampered by the budget, which had to have seen the majority go to special effects work. The trolls were not only cleverly designed, but also astoundingly realistic looking on screen (the photos online do not do the film justice). The FX work was detrimental in keeping the film believable.
With all of the troll roaring, people chasing, and mythological elements, The Troll Hunter is easily the Jurassic Park of first-person horror. Somehow finding a way to be completely engaging in each and every frame, this Norwegian creature feature stands tall next to the likes of great modern cinéma vérité such as Cloverfield. Highly recommended for theaters.