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Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 349: Trollhunter

Trolleo and Juliet

The scariest villains and monsters come from our oldest stories. They have been passed down over the decades and centuries through word of mouth and stories. Even from a young age, we know about vampires, werewolves, and the boogeyman. These characters are so ingrained in our cultural that they're almost on the same level as George Washington and Babe Ruth. One monster that has been around for hundreds of years, but never received a lot of attention from the horror world is the troll. I don't know why they don't get a lot of attention. They're big, they're mean, they're scary, and they eat cute animals. And no, Troll and Troll 2 don't really count. It took a film Norway, land of the trolls, to bring them into the spotlight.

Trollhunter is a 2010 Norwegian monster movie shot in a found footage documentary style. The movie stars Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas and Otto Jespersen as Hans. Thomas is college student working on a documentary about a bear poacher with cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and soundwoman Johanna (Morck). Bear poaching is a serious crime in Norway and Thomas is determined to capture the culprit on film. They interview local hunters as well as Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen), the head of the Norwegian Wildlife Board. Despite certain bear tracks looking odd, Finn dismissed the idea that it could be anything but a bear. Their investigation leads them to a secretive man named Hans who is known to disappear into the woods every night. The film crew follow him into the woods only to be surprised by Hans running up to them and yelling “Troll!” Thomas is attacked by an unseen animal, sustaining a wound on his shoulder. When they make it back to their car, they find it completely destroyed. Hans takes the crew back, admitting that he is actually a troll hunter. Tired of all the bureaucracy and hunting, Hans allows them to film his work, no longer concerned with keeping trolls a secret. The next night, Hans takes them to find a troll that has left it's usual area. He asks the crew if any of them are Christian or believe in Jesus and they all claim not to. The troll, smelling Christian blood, finds them and gives chase. Hans hits it with UV light, turning it into stone, and then smashes the stone. Finn comes to the sight and has a crew bring in a bear carcass to cover up what really happened. It is revealed that many trolls have been leaving their usual areas and attacks on humans are increasing. Will Hans and the film crew be able to find out why and stop it before the world learns that trolls really do exist?

 Oh, kopulere!

I have to say that I am very tired of found footage horror movies. Trollhunter is made on a relatively small budget, so having the movie done in the found footage style makes sense. If you loved all the yelling and running through the woods of The Blair Witch Project, you'll really enjoy Trollhunter. There is a lot of the shaky camerawork during the action scenes which tended to make me nauseous. It's good for cheap thrills and excitement, but gets tiresome. Combine that with the cliché nightvision and the movie tends to feel amateurish in look. What saves the film from looking completely unprofessional is the quality special effects used for the trolls. The trolls have a lot of variety in terms of look, height, weight, and even names. It's fun hearing Hans go through the different types of trolls, explaining what they eat and how they live. The movie includes a fair amount of Norwegian folklore, which is interesting, though I probably missed a lot of nuances. The scenic beauty of Norway is on full display, ranging from the fjords to the wilderness to the frozen tundra.

I hesitate to call Trollhunter a “mockumentary” only because I don't see a clear mocking in the movie's story. The movie is fairly light-hearted for a horror film which I feel hurt the movie overall. When Thomas was injured from a troll, I was expecting him to eventually turn into a troll. Sadly this doesn't happen and takes a lot of suspense away from the movie. It's essentially a dead-end plot point. The action is good when the camera isn't shaking all around and there are some genuinely funny scenes sprinkled throughout. Pacing is a bit of an issue in the film as the character go from troll to troll almost like checkpoints in a video game leading up to the big boss battle at the end. When they're not dealing with trolls, I felt boredom creeping in. There aren't many scares in the film, though there are some intense moments. The acting is good with Otto Jespersen putting in the best performance. He exudes a quite, veteran confidence that makes the movie far more believable than one would expect. 

"Go to hell, paparazzi! You make me sick, you parasite!"

There is nothing particularly brilliant or innovative about Trollhunter. It's fairly flat in terms of storytelling and devoid of much emotion. The main selling point is that it's from Norway and features a monster not commonly used in horror. The natural beauty of Norway is quite enjoyable to look at while the film crew drives around the winding mountain roads. Thankfully, the movie is in Norwegian with subtitles rather than a terrible dubbing, like in fellow Norwegian horror movie Dead Snow. The trolls actually look pretty good and have a lot of variety in their looks. I didn't care for the shaky found footage-style camera work and the multiple scenes of walking through the woods. If I never seen another night vision shot in a horror movie, it will be too soon. The acting is good enough to push the movie into a more believable light and the direction is fine. While it was nice to see a movie from a country not particularly known for it's horror and starring a monster not known for showing up in scary movies, I just wasn't particularly impressed with Trollhunter.


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