I think it is unfortunate that so many Americans do not watch foreign films. Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno, 2006) is a Spanish favorite of mine. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was cinematographically a good film, but I didn’t care much for it. I suspect most Americans are scared off by having to put forth the effort to read subtitles. That could explain why there are English-speaking American remakes of successful foreign films such as Let Me In (2010), The Invisible (2007), and Quarantine (2008). Unfortunately, the foreign independent film Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren, 2010) has a similarly scheduled fate due to be released in 2014.
A group of Norwegian film students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and their camera-man Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) set out to make a documentary about a suspected bear poacher named Hans (Otto Jespersen) who spends his nights prowling the Norwegian countryside in a Land Rover which has disquieting scratches all over it. Hans eventually concedes to allow them to tag along, but what the students discover is that the Norwegian government employs troll hunters (such as Hans) to destroy the beastlike trolls that venture too far from their allotted territory and threaten the environment and power pylons. The four of them decide that people have the right to know that trolls exist and change the focus of the documentary project to that of revealing a complex government cover up; they don’t want the public to know about trolls.
I thought Troll Hunter was a very creative film. I absolutely love the idea of fantasy creatures existing in a modern world setting. The trolls in this movie have a heavy basis in classic Norwegian fairy tale. They are big and hairy, can smell the blood of Christians, some have multiple heads, and they all have huge noses that would put Richard Nixon to shame. There is even an encounter with a troll under a bridge, probably one of my favorite scenes. They are beastly monsters that are fun to see on the screen; they herald back to the fantasy creatures you may be familiar with, but are depicted in a kind of a scary, “grownup” way.
Troll Hunter is a “found footage” mockumentary, and thus filmed in queasy-cam. What you see on screen is what Kalle is capturing with his camera. Since Kalle is running away from ferocious trolls, there is a lot of camera shaking. This is essentially the same camera technique that was popularized by The Blair Witch Project (1999). I was really worried that I would get motion sick watching this movie, since I can’t even stomach first-person shooter video games. But I was just fine. If I, and my periodic motion sickness, can stomach Troll Hunter, surely it wouldn’t give you much trouble.
The found footage mockumentary “genre” is often used by low budget horror films. It is a clever ruse to keep the audience from seeing anything in much detail, which gives the film crew an excuse to not spend the money to create much detail in their visuals. It was fairly obvious that Troll Hunter was a low budget film, but the special effects for the trolls was uncanny! They looked so lifelike and believable. Unlike most films in this genre, you get to see lots of the monsters. This movie doesn’t shy away from showing you the trolls, which is good. Why else would you watch this movie? Aside from the fantastic troll effects, the Norwegian forest and mountain scenery in the movie is just gorgeous. I’m ready to go visit.
I recommend seeing Troll Hunter. It’s not a classic for the ages, but it was certainly enjoyable. It has a bit of a slow start, but everything in the movie is significant to the plot. With a rating of PG-13, it’s probably not a fantasy movie to watch with a younger audience, but pretty good for a teenage and adult audience who can keep up with the subtitles. Make sure you watch this before you see the 2014 remake; English-speaking American remakes are rarely as good as the original foreign films on which they are based.