written & directed by Andre Ovredal
Alliance Films (2010)
Only on rare occasions does the fake documentary/found footage sty;e of storytelling ever work in movies, even rarer in horror movies. Cloverfield, Quarantine, Diary of the Dead. These are not what I consider particularly good movies, and they're three of the better films of this genre. So when I heard there was a Norwegian horror film that uses the found footage gimmick to incorporate giant trolls, my expectations weren't too high. But the idea of a new horror movie with giant trolls was still too tempting to ignore.
The movie starts off by saying the footage was found and examined, but the events shown cannot be verified. Okay, fine. The footage is captured by a trio of student journalists investigating unexplained bear deaths in the forests of Norway. Hunters are up in arms because it's all apparently the work of a vagabond poacher. The trio eventually track down the poacher, a grizzly middle-aged hunter living in a cramped mobile camper who only hunts at night. They follow him into the woods one night when he leaves the campgrounds, hoping to get footage of him shooting a bear, but what they instead discover are strange lights over the thickly forested horizon, guttural roars that could come from no bear, and the poacher retreating back towards them screaming one word: TROLL!
And with that one line, a mundane mockumentary turns into one of the best monster movies I've seen in years. The teens convince the poacher to let them tag along on his hunts, oddly amused and enticed by his assertions there are trolls roaming the countryside at night, and he is the one man in Norway hunting them down. For a while, there's no sign of actual trolls on camera, much like there was no shark in Jaws beyond allusions to him. The cameraman films treetops swaying wildly as if a giant is pushing its way between them, while the girl with the boom microphone is picking up strange noises that sound less like a wild animal or more like expletives from a Klingon. Then, they see the troll for the first time and all hell breaks loose.
While the CGI effects aren't perfect, they are more than enough to suck you in, and the three-headed troll that stands three-stories high gives the movie's first holy shit moment. There's more than one troll though, as they spends days scouring the countryside hunting them and gathering footage, trying not to get eaten (with various levels of success), evading the government officials trying to confiscate their footage and keep trolls out of the public eye, and learn more about why this trollhunter is so disenfranchised with his lifelong duty to keeping the mythical menace at bay.
There are moments in the movie where the plot strains credulity, but the suspension of disbelief came quite easily for me, and the incredible character designs of some of these trolls, which range from miniscule to gargantuan, were commendable. The subtitles are a pain in the ass at times, but when aren't they a pain when you're trying to focus your eyes on the action. At least when the action hits a fever pitch, dialogue becomes inconsequential. I also thought the way aspects of the real world are used to rationalize why trolls aren't widely known, especially the bigger ones, like high tension power lines on the mountainous landscape are really electric fences to keep them penned in, and the rocky countryside is really a troll graveyard since many trolls turn to stone when they die. It's a bit cheesy in a way, but I dug the logic employed to explain them.
If you love monsters, you need to see this movie, if for nothing else than to see the trollhunter slap on a suit of homemade armor and duel with a troll literally living under a bridge.