Troll Hunter. Those two words effectively tell you everything you need to know about the plot and the protagonist of this particular monster flick. But it’s more than that.
Every once in a while, a film will arrive on the scene that strikes you as something a little different from the endless supply of comic book adaptations, slasher-shockers and rom-coms. For me, Troll Hunter was that film. A Norwegian mix of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, it presents itself as the footage of three college students making a documentary about illegal bear hunting in Norway.
What they don’t realise is the true nature of the suspicious man they start stalking. At first, they assume the bear hunters of Norway are correct in their judgement: this odd loner must be unlawfully killing the big furry animals. But they’re wrong. Only some of them are furry, and they’re not bears. They’re trolls.
I won’t spoil the nature of the rest of the film for you, because there are some great twists and turns, although it can sometimes feel slightly predictable – mainly because the opening paragraphs all but outline the fate of the documentary makers before it’s even under way. But suffice to say it’s one of the more creative fantasy efforts I’ve seen.
Trolls are expanded on as a species – they are not merely enigmatic, roaring monsters, but we learn about a wide range of sub-species and behavioural traits, not to mention the biological inner-workings of each mythical creature. This stands quite at odds with the weird, rarely-seen giant monster and its smaller friends in Cloverfield, and I’m glad – if there’s one thing that bores me in monster films, it’s never being able to get a real glimpse of the monster in question.
Trolls aside, the one person who really shines in this film is Hans, the eponymous troll hunter, played by Otto Jespersen. Mysterious, strong-willed and fed up with his role as the go-to fellow for troll problems in Norway, he paints a picture of a tired old man, modest about being seen as a “hero” in the eyes of the documentary crew and, indeed, by the audience. There’s a sorrowful edge to his knowledge of trolls and fearless approach towards the predatory, intimidatingly large killing and eating machines, and it gives the film a more emotionally developed feel than you’d be right to expect.
The cinematography is nothing new, though it’s worth seeing it in Blu-Ray for the crystal-clear shots that make the film a little nicer to look at. The usual mix of hand-held charges through foliage in night-time and the occasional dropped camera make for a standard mix of “amateur” mockumentary cinematography. But that’s what makes the film appealing – if Troll Hunter had been shot with big-budget equipment, it would’ve been a terrible monster flick. It’s the amateur nature of it that makes the CGI work so well, and the tension and horror remain consistent as things go from terrifying to awe-inspiring.
Troll Hunter is certainly a step in the right direction, and seeing people implant great special effects into pseudo-amateur footage makes all of these monster mockumentaries that little bit more epic. My one criticism of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project is that I never fully understood the terror of what they had seen, what they ran from. I understand trolls. I’ve seen them. They’re damn scary. Watch this flick, and find out – you’ll never look at the Lake District the same way again.