Review: “Troll Hunter”, AKA “Trollhunter” (2011)

Let me start by saying two things about this movie: I was only about fifty percent excited to see it and it is not necessarily a true “horror” film, but rather a modern monster movie based in a very, very tiny sub-genre in horror.

Of course, the film I am referring to is Norway’s own Trolljergeren, which in English translates to Troll Hunter. The film, which came out last year in Norway, has done some festival traveling, hitting up Sundance, Night Visions, Slash, San Francisco International, Boston Independent, and many others. Websites have been abuzz about it for some time and, when seeing the trailer for it, I got a little abuzz about it myself.

The movie follows a small crew of university students who are making a documentary about the Norwegian hunting scene as many bears (“bjørn”) have been found killed. After snooping around a bit, the crew is able to deduce that something else is afoot here, something suspicious and generally not right. They catch sight of a particular hunter, Hans (played by fabulous curmudgeon Otto Jespersen), and stalk him, leading to some great surprises – namely, trolls (which translates to “trolls”).

Sounds insane, I know. And, watching the first half, you don’t really feel like trolls are even ever going to come into the picture: it seems like you are watching a completely different movie about bears and Norwegian inbred people, who – up until now – I had no idea existed. For that reason, I thank the movie! But, in all sincerity, the first half is definitely watchable and is intriguing nonetheless because of Jespersen, whose Hans is an insane bitch of a man who probably has not bathed since baths were invented in Norway.

The happenings in the film are pretty surprising and very, very clever, for which I give intense props to writer/director André Øvredal. In a genre like the mockumentary, there is only so much you can do visually: shots in the dark, chasing people in the dark, bumps in the night in the dark – things we’ve seen in Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity and any other shitty thing of the like. What sets Troll Hunter apart from the mockumentary pack is that its subject is unknown to the audience, which requires a lot of intelligent conversation: the important goings-on are not just what happens in the dark, but what happens (or doesn’t happen) in the light. Conversations with scientists and government workers peppered in-between troll hunts make for a rich and layered narrative. I really enjoyed a particular interview with a scientist who makes troll science seem 100% real. It made me wish that there are in fact trolls on Earth…or, at least, far away in Norway.

Also – and I hate to beat this point to death – the movie is about fucking trolls. Has there ever been another movie besides Troll & Troll 2 and Ernest Scared Stupid to focus on trolls? No! There hasn’t been! That’s because, since the seventies, fucking troll dolls ruined it for everyone and the sub-genre has never recovered.

I, for one, love a monster movie. And, I, for one, love trolls. Of course I was skeptical about the film, but I had such a blast watching it that I implore you to do the same in hopes that other filmmakers out there would venture away from zombies or vampires and toward trolls. Troll Hunter is an important horror film exactly because of the entertaining demystification of the troll.

Moreover, the film is technically amazing. All the troll effects and animation surrounding the creatures are executed perfectly and never take you out of the movie to say, “PSSSSH: that looks fake.” Instead, the film is able to really embrace its use of night vision and darkness to make these creatures look absolutely great – way better than any other modern mockumentary. You will not be scared by the trolls or any other effects; however, you may be grossed out by a few things, something that – in this case – I value just as highly as a scare. What they do with the trolls is very, very impressive.

My only problem is the same problem I have with all OK mockumentaries: the ending and all loose ends related to “the end.” Like The Last Exorcism, the ending just comes out of nowhere and happens and is done and the movie is over. I get that: the camera or camerawoman or cameraman has died. The film ends. OK. But, seriously, there has to be a better exeunt from the film than that! Moreover, one large loose end is never touched, but could have been made into a really fun plot point. I won’t spoil anything, but just keep your eye on what happens to all the characters and how that relates to the trolls: one big stone is unturned to find a bunch of turds underneath it.

Troll Hunter is destined to be this summer’s District 9, but with less social commentary, more fun, and no gore or lost fingernails. I highly recommend this film for exceeding my expectations and for being the perfect thing to do on a bored Saturday night with some gay bros. You can catch the film today, on your computer, courtesy of Apple or in limited release on June 10.

RATING (Out of Five):

Troll Hunter, AKA Trollhunter is rated PG-13 for some little animals being sacrificed to trolls, lots of Norwegian curse words, mega hate happening on Jesus, and lots and lots and lots of troll snot.

(NOTE: I only recommend you watch the above trailer/teaser, as after watching the film I found the others to be entirely too revealing.)

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A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.