Troll Hunter is a Norwegian mockumentary telling the story of a group of university filmmakers filming a man who hunts Trolls, whose existence has been kept under wraps by the Norwegian government. The film has some great moments, but the Trolls themselves let the film down and the ending is frankly infuriating.
The film starts with a note telling us that this footage was found and it has been proven to be completely authentic. This beginning is very reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project; in fact the whole film is, however the amount of running around the woods with shaky cam is tripled here to the point where it becomes irritating. The student filmmakers start off thinking they are following a poacher who is killing bears illegally, and this works like the real documentary The Cove. The mockumentary elements work well for the most part, especially in the quieter scenes, but the action scenes are confusing to watch.
The actors playing the students are perfectly good but have nothing to work with, be asked simply to look either enthusiastic or scared. We don’t get a sense of their relationship with each other and so we never really care for them. On the other hand the troll hunter played by Otto Jespersen is wonderful. Jespersen plays him with suitable danger and world-weariness. He is completely believable and we even get a sense of how he actually understands these creatures and at times cares for them. He is tough and even emotional when he lets the camera crew into his world. If the American remake that is planned goes ahead, it will be hard to find someone to out-do or even match Jespersen’s perfect performance.
So what are the actual Trolls like? We never see the Blair Witch and this lent it a frightening presence. The Trolls aren’t quite as menacing. Much as in Jurassic Park, the film wisely saves us from seeing them for quite a while, but once we do it is disappointing. While they are well-designed creatures, the CGI just isn’t good enough and so they are immediately unbelievable. The “documentary makers” come into contact with many different kinds of Trolls and all of them are quite poor CGI creations. The camera is far too steady on them allowing us to see just how fake they are. The monsters are far more frightening when we simply see the damage they cause; things like collapsed trees and claw marks. That said, some of the Troll sequences are genuinely tense, due to the cleverly crafted situations that the characters find themselves in.
The detailed means to stop a Troll are well thought out. Hiding by rubbing disgusting Troll scent over you is a nice touch but there are also some rather odd inclusions such as the notion that they can smell a Christian’s blood, which seem a bit out of place in the realistic world which has been created. The Trolls are stopped by intense light and the Troll hunter’s light gun is a good visual gimmick, and when the Trolls either explode or turn to stone it is well done and shocking.
What really stands out is Norway itself. The mountains, cold plains and rivers, look stunning and the film is a great advertisement for the country. It is truly breathtaking and well worth seeing on the big screen, something that is not true of most mockumentaries.
The Troll Hunter can be at times very funny; moments where we see Jespersen filling out forms for the Trolls he has killed are both believable and witty. Other moments such as a Troll farting in our protagonists’ faces are less humorous (I’m not against fart jokes but they have to be well done).
The film is a great ride at times but ends rather abruptly and is followed by an ill-judged comedy moment that leaves you disappointed. However, The Troll Hunter has some brilliant moments and Jespersen’s performance and Norway itself are worth seeing the film for.