Skip to content

Trollhunter (2011)

June 10, 2011

written by: André Øvredal

produced by: Sveinung Golimo, John M. Jacobsen & Lars. L. Maroy
directed by: André Øvredal
rated PG-13 (for some sequences of creature terror) 
103 min. 
U.S. release date: June 10, 2011 (limited), also available on iTunes, VOD & Amazon.

It’s official. I have become fatigued by this “found footage” craze that longs to be a phenomenon. If a film starts out claiming that what I am about to see is real or that it is “all that we know”, more than likely, I’ve checked out. I wind up approaching the film with extreme apprehension and cautious suspicion. It’s difficult for me to be believe that what I am seeing is real, when it can so easily be fabricated on film. At least when I see this disclaimer at the beginning of a mockumentary about giant-sized trolls being hunted in Norway, I’d like to think I can chuckle and kick back. 
Sadly, that’s only partly true.
A movie that supposes that such creatures exist, must be taken with a healthy dose of silliness and intact deadpan. One day “Trollhunter” may reach cult status. You might find it lauded at sci-fi/fantasy conventions or showing at midnight at your local indie art house. But, right now I will consider this a cleverly made film that loses its allure as “Blair Witch” type kids keep talking and the cheap-looking super-sized Muppets keep walking. It feels like a misfire when the title character is more interesting than the fairy tale characters being chased.  


Two student filmmakers, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) and Johanna (Johanna Morck), along with their cameraman, set out to expose a local bear poacher in Norway.  Through various tips and leads, they encounter more than they bargained for when they meet the eccentric Hans (Otto Jespersen), a mysterious and reclusive hunter. Without a clue, the trio follow this local legend to his mobile home that appears to be filled with animal hides. Initially, Hans is abrupt, telling them to shuffle off, ignoring their questions. Eventually, he relents and admits that he hunts trolls in the forests and mountains for a secret government organization. 

Hans allows them to tag along, as long as they only observe and do exactly what he says. Little do they know, he will require them to smear themselves with troll gunk, in order to mask their own human scent. Their frightened excursions occur mainly at night, since the trolls rarely ever appear in broad daylight. The crew and their hunter come across different types of trolls, some reside deep in the forests, while others pack into mountain caves. They soon learn that Hans has grown tired of all the secrets that come with his job and is determined to not only expose these mythic beasts to the world, but also the shady officials who wish to keep them a secret.  



At first, “Trollhunter” had me intrigued, baiting my curiosity upon viewing the first troll. Much to my dismay, I steadily lost interest. It just looked entirely too silly and phony. By only filming them after sunset or through night-vision goggles, there was more of an opportunity to use shadows and sound to elicit scares. But I found it more as an excuse to hide the film’s cheap special effects and rely on off-screen action to increase hysteria. I wasn’t buying it. 

I’ll give credit to the film’s ambition though. Writer/director Orvedal creates a detailed mythology for these carnivorous trolls to support the fantasy of it all. We see Hans repeatedly ask the young filmmakers if any of them are Christians, because apparently the scent of a faithful believer is a dead giveaway and drives them nuts. Of course, because it’s put out there, we know that one of these kids is gonna admit their conviction at the most inappropriate time. Sigh. The trolls themselves are creatively designed, with some distinctive looks (one has three heads but is only born with one) and sounds, which provide a couple of intense encounters. Unfortunately, most of the time I was wondering if someone was in a costume of if it was all down in post-production. 


“Trollhunter” tries to maintain its intensity, but after a while it become almost as annoying as “The Blair Witch Project” or those wretched “Paranormal Activity” flicks. It all just felt so forced, with characters I could care less about, except for those big-nosed trolls. At least the title character is fun to watch here. Hans is like a dogged Merlin Olsen with a thick Scandinavian accent and an arsenal of weapons to take out any creature alive. His rugged vehicle has huge claw marks on its side and is outfitted with harsh UV lights that can freeze or explode his prey (depending on the type of troll) on the spot.  Always cautious and sometimes seemingly aloof, Hans never seems get to worked up over the alleged danger they are. He’s been at it so long that it’s just another day on the job. 

If the film only discarded its mockumentary feel and attempted more of a twisted macabre tone, I think I would’ve been sold. The vast Norwegian countryside, with its dense forests and quiet mountainsides, lend itself well to a believable fantasy setting. It’s just too bad that Ovredal and company didn’t embrace full-on fiction instead of delivering sluggish fictitious events through jittery footage. Like every other modern foreign film, it won’t be too long before an American remake is announced. I’m usually against such nonsense but that’s only when the original can stand on its own. This one seems to be stuck in its own giant footprint, so I’d be happy to see another director take this concept and give it some room to romp.



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: