Two sub-genres I’ve never understood the appeal of: Mockumentary and ” Found Footage Films” (not real found footage, mind you, but that CLOVERFIELD bullshit). Sure, there are the rare exceptions as Christopher Guest rarely misses his mark as far as mockumentaries are concerned and every once in a while there is a solid “found-footage” film (the Korean film THE BUTCHER, comes to mind) but for every one of those we get some pre-mature attempt at garnering shock and awe from already jaded viewers (just look at the exceedingly grating THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES for an example). Luckily, THE TROLL HUNTER is not a great example of one of these sub-genres but of both and, dare I say, it manages to be more spectacular than any blockbuster you’re likely to see all year.
*Start Public Service Announcement* Now, most of you have probably at least seen the foreign trailer for this which hit the internet last year. That is fine. However, please, at all costs avoid the domestic trailer. It may advertise the film well for viewers that otherwise would not go see it (though, the subtitles may scare some away, sadly) but it legitimately ruins some of the more surprising scenes in the film. I was fortunate enough to heed a warning that I was given about this and did not watch that trailer until AFTER I had seen the film and, go figure, many of my favorite moments in the film are contained within the mere couple minutes that trailer runs. *End Public Service Announcement*
For anyone who has, or who has not, seen the trailer the plot is rather simple. Basically, some young filmmakers are making a documentary on illegal bear poaching in Norway and they stumble upon a man who considers himself to be The Troll Hunter. Naturally, they decide his story is far more interesting than that of the plight of the bears. The rest is something you have to see for yourself as I’m surely not about to ruin any of the many surprises in store. Just know this before going in: if you’re expecting a traditional horror film you will be disappointed. The screening I saw was packed and when it was over I heard plenty of people expressing their dissatisfaction with it not being “scary” or “gory”. This is not that type of film and the sooner you’re willing to accept that, the more fun you’ll have with it. Then again, I’m not sure it was ever advertised as being either of those things so maybe the audience I saw it with was just crazy.
So, if this is not “scary” or “gory” why should you be interested? Well, for one, it’s fucking hilarious. I’m constantly told that I don’t find enough films funny. I can’t stand physical comedy or much deadpan humor (Will Ferrel’s presence is practically an assurance that I will despise a given film) so the humor I see in something isn’t necessarily something that will be appreciated everywhere. The humor here is dark and subtle yet it pervades the entire film. There is no “dead” area where it just doesn’t manage to be funny, it always is, and to some extent that almost works against it as it becomes exhausting after a while and you really have to be attentive to catch much of it. This is subtitled after all and I’ve heard repeatedly that foreign comedies do not translate well into English subtitles, well, the audience I saw this with was very much audible in their laughter so I am inclined to say that you can put that theory to rest. THE TROLL HUNTER is not just a comedy though, it actually works as a rather impressive fantasy film. The trolls, which you’ll see in far too much detail in that domestic trailer, are a thing of beauty. Typically imports do not maintain the technical finesse many attribute a Hollywood picture with as far as CGI work goes. That is not so here. The effects may not rival some of what you will see in multiplexes this summer but for a low budget film this is incredible work. They aren’t just impressively detailed either, there is an actual scale and even a grandeur associated with them. These creatures appear every bit as menacing, disgusting and ridiculous as they’re meant to and when they start to pass gas and/or explode you may find yourself cringing as much as the characters on screen.
The film, as good as it is, does have some minor faults. It is a tad long at over 100 minutes and could definitely use some trimming towards the end. Actually, you don’t even start seeing trolls until almost 2/3 through the run time. That’s not to say that it isn’t great prior to that point, but it takes so long to get there that after a while the entire experience is just exhausting. Confining the trolls to that final portion of the film makes their presence seem like overkill as there is just a different creature after a different creature…and so on. Also, I hate to say it, but as with most mockumentaries, performances here are not always convincing. Their is supposed to be some illusion as to this being actual “found footage” and that illusion is completely broken by the unconvincing nature of the actors. Yes, this is a film about motherfucking TROLLS, I know that nobody is going to believe it regardless of how good the acting is. Still, a little integrity goes a long way.
That about does it. At this point you know if you’re the target audience for THE TROLL HUNTER or not. If so, do your absolute best to see this theatrically. I can’t express how great of an experience it is with a receptive audience and seeing the CGI work on a big screen. I’m actually curious to see if I feel the same way about it in a different environment. I hope that it carries over to the home market well as that will undoubtedly be how most see it, but I could see this being an cult repertory staple for years to come if enough embrace it in the coming months.