The Troll Hunter is a Norwegian “found-footage” style film that has been making waves on the festival circuit. The premise is simple, yet effective. A group of college filmmakers are following a man believed to be an undocumented bear hunter. In Norway, all bear hunters must be licensed by the government, therefore, the man they are chasing would be considered a poacher. It’s made clear to the group on several occasions that the man is not interested in being interview, but when they follow him deep into a wooded area, where he’s being chased by something giant, that’s clearly not a bear, he has somewhat of a change of heart.
One of the best things about foreign films, and one of the main reason they are able to recycle stale subject matter, is the fact that they take methods of filmmaking that American filmmakers have beaten into the ground for years, and show us how it’s done right. Found-footage films are still very prevalent in the American film market, and several summer blockbusters are utilizing the technique. The Troll Hunter does nothing different with this particular style of film, but it does take everything that makes the mockumentary work, and wrap it up into a wildly competent feature length experience.
Discussing the film with Jeff Konopka of The Blood Sprayer this past Saturday on The Blood Sprayer Podcast, I learned that André Øvredal, director of The Troll Hunter, drew much of his influence from Jurassic Park. Knowing that before you go in to viewing this film, you’ll be able to spot several scenes that this influence shines through.
The Troll Hunter was made on an estimated budget of about three million American dollars, which to some, would not be considered a low budget. The truth of the matter is, for what the film accomplishes, 3 million is an extremely low figure. If this film were not in a foreign language, it would be shown alongside the other multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters this summer, because that’s the scale of the picture. It’s an impressive feat, to say the least, and I would love to see what Øvredal could do with an even bigger budget.
One of the things that makes The Troll Hunter stand out against the rest of the pack is the suspense that is created. It sort of teases you at first, and you’re wondering whether or not you’ll actually get to see the trolls in full detail, or if they’ll go the Cloverfield route, and keep the creature’s appearance a mystery for most of the film. Thankfully, after a big of suspense, the first troll is revealed, and it looks remarkable. The creature design, and the CG are handled extremely well, and if you know anything about me, you know that I rarely, if ever praise the use of CG.
Another great thing to see was that the trolls weren’t limited to one specific creature design. There are several different types of trolls, based on location, and other varying factors, and each troll is characterized quite well. On top of having different appearances, different behavior patterns, etc. , the trolls also have different styles of death. Some trolls calcify, some explode, it depends on their scientific make-up, and this is all explained in detail within the film. Most films that attempt to explain the origins and facts of the creature they are facing wind up being cheesy. The Troll Hunter manages not only to pull this off, but it’s actually fairly fascinating, the level of detail that they create for each of the the different styles of trolls.
Even if you’re sick and tired of the found-footage film, you owe it to yourself to put that prejudice aside long enough to experience The Troll Hunter. It’s everything the sub-genre has been missing, and nothing that makes it stale. One bit of advice though, is not to expect a full on horror experience. Yes, there are elements of horror, but it’s not the film’s sole focus. If you get your thrills by suspense, and the anticipation of something happening, you’re in for a treat. At the same time, if you’re a balls kind of viewer, and like nothing left to the imagination, this is a movie made for you as well. It’s rare that a film has the ability to capture the attention of both of these audiences, but in the end, The Troll Hunter succeeds in doing so.