Thursday, October 18, 2012

Troll Hunter

Directed by André Øvredal.
2010. Rated PG-13, 103 minutes.

Otto Jespersen
Glenn Erland Tosterud
Johanna Mǿrck
Tomas Alf Larsen
Urmila Berg-Domaas
Hans Morten-Hansen
Robert Stoltenberg

We’re told immediately that we’re watching a film that was made by selecting the scenes to follow from 283 hours of video. Not only that, but the people who pored over it also spent over a year trying to figure if this was genuine or all part of some elaborate hoax. They have determined it to be authentic. Yay, more found footage horror. Sarcasm.

The folks that left behind this particular footage are a small group of Norwegian college students filming a documentary about the havoc that bears are wreaking in the counry’s forest and mountain areas and the people who hunt them. We learn the government only licenses a select few to target bears and, as you might imagine, they are a tight knit group. They’re also pretty pissed that bears are being gunned down with none of them behind the trigger. A mysterious guy who lives in a smelly camper and only goes out at night is the main suspect. They all believe he’s a poacher. Of course, the college kids start hounding him for an interview and following him after dark. Pretty soon they find out it isn’t bears that are causing all the trouble or that the bearded man is hunting. It’s trolls.

Hans (Jespersen) is the bearded man’s name and he quickly tells us that these trolls aren’t like the ones we’ve read about in fairy tales. These are huge, snarling, not very intelligent beasts that eat whatever they can get their hands on. They’ve been quarantined to certain sections around the country. Hans’ task is to find out why so many are leaving these areas and to kill any wayward trolls. He’s been doing this job for a really long time and doesn’t like it much these days. He invites the kids to tag along, so long as none of them are Christians. This part of the fairy tale is true: trolls can smell the blood of Christian men and it sends them into a frenzy. They assure him they aren’t and away we go.

The trolls themselves are what makes this different from most movies in the found-footage sub-genre. There is really no attempt to hide them and build suspense from the wait. Instead, we see them pretty clearly throughout the picture. The key is that there are a number of different types. That way, we’re consistently seeing something new as the movie progresses. Additionally, they’re also mindlessly aggressive toward whatever is in their path. Often enough, it’s our cast in harm’s way creating a palpable sense of danger. With all of the troll action taking place at night, the special fx work beautifully, adding to the idea that we’re really seeing gigantic monsters rampaging in the woods, or in caves.

Another big plus is our troll hunter. Otto Jespersen plays Hans perfectly straight. He exudes the weariness he professes. We really feel like he’s a guy that’s been doing a thankless job forever and is desperately searching for a way out. It’s a subtle, yet effective performance. The rest of the cast is adequate, but not enthralling. Mǿrck who plays Johanna is a possible exception as she is a shade better than the others.

As found footage flicks go, Troll Hunter is a solid adventure. A few very tense scenes help it live up to the horror label. Truthfully though, it’s more fun than it is scary. That in itself isn’t really a problem. The problem is by now we’ve seen more than a few of these types of movies. The ending feels pre-ordained within a few moments of the start. This makes it hard for us to generate the empathy necessary to really get us vested in these people. We already know how they end up. Thankfully, watching them get there is a good time.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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