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TrollHunter (2011)

November 29, 2011

VERDICT:
7/10 Norwegian Woods

Way better than you think it is.

TrollHunter is about a group of college students who set out to make a documentary about some odd happenings among a group of bear hunters in Norway. As they dig deeper, they’re led to a mysterious man named Hans, the individual rumored responsible for all the crazy crap that the government’s trying to hide from the public eye. Despite his insistence that they should turn tail and go home, they start secretly following Hans throughout the night on his “bear hunts” to find out what’s really going on. As they soon find out, Hans isn’t hunting bears at all. Hans is in fact the one guy keeping Norway’s troll population in check by any means necessary. While most people would take this revelation as a perfect opportunity to leave Norway and never go near trees again, the students decide to see this project through to the end, even if it costs them their lives.

Man, as I read that last paragraph over, I’m instantly reminded that this movie sounds dumb as all hell. If someone tried to sell me on a movie by saying, “It’s like The Blair Witch Project, but with trolls,” I don’t think we’d have much else to talk about. Right off the bat, this is not a movie that anyone’s going to take seriously, and unless trolls are making a zombie-like comeback that I’m totally unaware of, it doesn’t seem like a movie most people would actively seek out either. Nevertheless, there is a strange fascination that goes along with that Jurassic Park-esque poster and I’m sure there were a good deal of people who were chomping at the freakin’ bit to see this in theaters. But as easy as it is to be skeptical, I highly recommend rolling with your curiosity on this one.

But back to The Blair Witch Project briefly. The gift of TBWP is that we got an outrageously successful, totally original, and arguably terrifying movie out of it that proved how very little you actually needed to scare the poop out of an entire planet and cause mass paranoia with the help of the internet. The curse of TBWP is that we can’t fucking escape it anymore. I’m not saying the horror mockumentary shtick hasn’t had its bright spots since 1999, but what was once a totally fresh concept has now become pretty run-of-the-mill. So now that we’ve gone from witches to Cloverfield monsters to demons to exorcisms, I guess it was only a matter of time before we made our way to trolls, right? I don’t know.

Now, I’m a bit out of loop when it comes to the various Goosebumps classics the children of Norway have been getting into over the years, but I think I speak for a strong majority of America when I say that trolls are pretty low on the list of Shit That Keeps Us Up At Night. If you’ve seen Troll 2, you know what I’m talking about, if you haven’t, you’re probably still wondering how they managed to make a horror movie out of those neon-haired, diamond-naveled, bug-eyed toys your daughter use to collect with her third-grade allowance money. So how did writer/director Andre Overdal overcome this ginormous hurdle? By making them three stories tall and ugly as sin, of course.

What’s cool about Overdal’s take on the subject is that he approaches troll folklore in the same way Blade or Fright Night approaches the strengths and weaknesses of vampires. Apparently there’s some legend about how you can get into riddle matches with a troll or something like that, and when the college students first realize what Hans does for a living, those childish questions are the ones that get asked. The good thing is that Hans scoffs at the suggestion of riddle-offs because he’s too busy prepping his troll-killin’ tank with ultraviolet floodlights that’ll turn those bastards to stone/explode ’em into goo and making damn sure that none of his new friends are practicing Christians. Trolls love that Christian blood, yo. And once the rules are set, that’s when the trolls do start showing up in all their hideous glory to sniff out and eat the nearest thing that doesn’t smell like their own stank-asses.

On that note, Overdal was a smart man not to skimp on the special effects, because these suckers look surprisingly convincing and the same goes for their interactions with the world around them. There are a lot of things that are surprisingly successful about this movie, but it’s especially cool how Overdal blends fantasy with reality in some very obvious, yet inspired ways. The plot isn’t just “heroes find troll, heroes run for their lives, heroes kill troll, rinse, wash, and repeat with bigger trolls,” the heart of it is Hans taking advantage of his newfound posse and their fancy-schmancy camera to blow up Norway’s spot and reveal the dirty secrets that have been staring at the public in plain sight. Those downed trees in your back yard? Get real, homey. Tornadoes don’t run that small. Those towering power lines running strung throughout the countryside? Guess what, fool? There ain’t phones connected to those joints, that’s just one huge electric fence built to keep the troll kings from dropping trou in your sauerkraut.

Maybe it sounds silly out of context, but the way this movie takes the already breathtakingly beautiful landscapes of Norway and uses them to emphasize that trolls are as serious a threat as they come is exactly what makes it all work. When it starts out, you’ll be rolling your eyes just as often as the students do, but by the end, don’t be surprised by how invested you’ll be in their efforts. By the same token, there’s not much to be gained from this movie except for the adrenaline rush, although it’s not like I was hoping for 12 Angry Men from a movie called TrollHunter. But as far as thrill rides are concerned, this one does a kickass job of upping the ante and keeping things wild.

Folks, I don’t know how effective this review’s been in regards to convincing y’all that this isn’t as stupid as it sounds, but I’m tellin’ ya’, TrollHunter is a time. It’s fun, it’s intense, and while trolls still have a ways to go before we can start to forget about The Best Worst Movie Ever Made, this was a big win for ’em. This experience could have gone a lot of ways, but for all the things it could have done wrong like take itself dead seriously or go for cheap scares like its supernatural cousin Paranormal Activity, it dodges them like a boss and does a whole lot of things right in the process. Man, for a genre that’s in serious need of some originality these days, it’s hard to believe this ended up being one of the keepers.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Stewart permalink
    November 29, 2011 12:15 am

    Haha good review! I can see why you won the awards that you did!

  2. November 29, 2011 6:42 am

    One of the most original and best executed mockumentary / ‘found footage’ films I’ve ever seen. The central hunter is perhaps the most intriguing guys I’ve seen on the screen this year and there’s so many little throwaway details about Trolls that I kept ‘buying in’ to the film before remembering that Trolls aren’t real. Things like rapid calcification, power lines, christian blood and Troll Stench… it just all came together to make a brilliant tongue-in-cheek film.

    Would highly recommend ‘Man Bites Dog’ if you liked this, similar idea but black black comedy about docu crew following a professional hitman.

    • December 1, 2011 10:28 am

      Totally agree, the throwaway elements really were the best part. Pretty genius actually, worked like gangbusters.

      And I saw Man Bites Dog a couple years ago. Remember liking it, but I need to see it again. One scene that really stands out is the aftermath of the woman (and her family?) butchered in their kitchen. That was rough, yo.

  3. November 29, 2011 8:22 am

    I keep hearing great things about this film. It is getting increasingly infuriating not being able to see it. Nice review Aiden – you’ve convinced me I have to track this down one way or another.

    • December 1, 2011 10:37 am

      Thanks, man! At the risk of sounding like an ignoramus, you don’t have Netflix Instant in England?

  4. November 30, 2011 3:40 pm

    Like you, this won me over by virtue of being very unlike the rash of found footage copycats and pretenders that have clogged the horror landscape since Blair Witch‘s release. It’s less about hapless protagonists running afoul of some form of evil or another and much more about the wonder of discovery.

    The chance of gruesome death at the hands of the unknown exists, of course, but these students are more wowed than afraid by what they run into when they meet and team up with Hans. I think that does wonders for the film and makes it much more palatable– not to mention Hans’ grievances with his position as troll hunter, which sound an awful lot like those of any public servant.

    Well-reasoned and composed write-up, Aidan. Glad to see someone else giving this one some love!

    • December 1, 2011 10:49 am

      Thanks, man! Deserves all the love it gets, just too bad more folks don’t know about it or won’t give it a chance thanks to first impressions.

      But I completely agree. The dynamic among Hans, the students, and the government is just great and makes the experience feel that much more unique from the found-footage movies we’ve all seen before. And great point about Hans as a public servant. Couldn’t pay that guy enough for the work he does.

  5. December 6, 2011 2:17 am

    I never knew so many types of trolls even existed. And I loved the toll slime. I want a jar of it.

    • December 6, 2011 9:37 am

      Hahaha. Who knew, right? And as long as it didn’t stink up my apartment, I’d love me some troll stench, too.

  6. September 18, 2012 10:01 pm

    Haha, I just watched this, and the first thing I thought was: “It’s like the Blair Witch Project, but with trolls.” Not sure what to think of it… I probably wouldn’t have watched it if you wouldn’t have pimped it so well, and I think it’s good that movies like this one are being made and they should be seen… but yeah, I didn’t find it as original as you or many others, obviously. I mean it is original in the sense that I have never seen a film about trolls before, that is correct, but I gotta say I’ve just grown a little tired of the whole mockumentary schitck. I thought the special effects were really nice, especially in the end… I guess I would have preferred to see it at a theater, ’cause I really believe that kinda stuff needs to be seen on the big screen. I just never really knew whether this was supposed to be funny or scary, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t do when being presented a mix of the two. I can imagine that it would have scared me more if I were an 8-year-old Norwegian kid and grew up with stories of fairies and trolls, but I didn’t. I love the Blair Witch Project, and I guess the reason why it had such an effect on me is the fact that I just believe much more in witches than I believe in trolls 😉 Maybe the trolls are also just a little too cute to be scary, I don’t know. Whew, that was long, Aiden. Gotta rest now. I’m gonna watch another movie now. ‘People Like Us’, I think.

    • September 24, 2012 12:27 pm

      Haha. Well, pimping movies is what I do. I mean, it’s definitely not the most original movie in terms of the Blair Witch/found-footage comparisons that everyone’s gonna make right off the bat, but as far as the way it keeps integrating the existence of trolls into the real-life landscape of Norway (eg: the conductor wires/electric fence) is awfully inspired. But I hear ya, this genre is wearing out its welcome awfully fast these days, and horror comedies definitely ain’t for everyone. And since it’s trolls, and no one’s scared of trolls, I can see how this would be a tad disappointing if you’re jonesing for scares.

      Think that’s a new world record for comment length! Something tells me you dug People Like Us far more than you did this.

  7. September 19, 2012 4:59 pm

    PS: I didn’t really get the ending, btw.

    • September 19, 2012 5:01 pm

      Haha. I think it just that the dude accidentally revealed the existence of trolls to the general public during the conference. That’s about it, really.

  8. September 19, 2012 6:58 pm

    no i mean… before that 😉
    when she starts to run and then… i don’t even know who these people are in the cars… and then she starts to run and then there’s a truck. i don’t get it.

    • September 19, 2012 7:04 pm

      From what I recall, I think those were the government folks who were trying to cover up the troll population from the get-go. At least that’s my crazy guess.

Trackbacks

  1. The Best Movies of 2011: #40 – #21 « Cut The Crap Movie Reviews
  2. TrollHunter (2011) – What the Hell Should I Watch on NETFLIX?

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