MAY 8, 2013 SCREENING: TROLLHUNTER (2010)
Ever since The Blair Witch Project (1999), numerous high profile films have tried to replicate the “found footage” aspect and create their own “mockumentary” horror films. Most of the films that have gotten attention for doing so have been underwhelming, in my opinion. Cloverfield (2008) received a ton of hype, I felt it was just a Godzilla movie done on a camcorder. Paranormal Activity (2007) got a huge amount of interest, spawning endless sequels, and I simply can’t see why. Both of them just came across as Blair Witch Project wannabes, but the audience already knows the “real” footage is fake, so the thrill is gone. At least Apollo 18 (2011) received a “meh” response, and ironically I thought it had a much more intriguing premise than the other two (basically the idea was that the “canceled” Apollo 18 mission really happened, but the government covered it up and erased all records because we found something there that we shouldn’t have).
Now, at long last, is a “found footage” movie that I think truly deserves attention and didn’t get it. Trollhunter (2010) is a Norwegian film that purports that documentary filmmakers find a real life individual who does Troll population control for the Norwegian government (trolls as in the mythical creatures that live under bridges, not trolls as in internet troublemakers). He doesn’t want to reveal his name, but reluctantly agrees to be filmed because he is sick and tired of the job.
The premise doesn’t sound particularly amazing, but the film presents it in a way that is truly is. This phony “documentary” (which is obviously so over the top that it knows nobody would mistake it for “real” footage”) takes itself super seriously, and is so outlandish that the film is equal parts crazy humor, depressing drama, terrifying horror, and bland natural channel type history lessons. Apparently they used a well known Norwegian comedian for the title role, but I couldn’t tell from his performance, since he plays it straight as a man who is genuinely burnt out from 30 years of “dirty work” and wants to quit, but the government is short handed and nobody else knows Troll hunting as well as him. We’re treated to numerous “government officials” who angrily tell the filmmakers they’re not allowed to be there or have cameras rolling, and order them to turn them off whenever we’re treated to something juicy. There’s even a scene in a restaurant where the troll hunter presents the filmmakers with an example of a “Slain Troll Form” he has to fill out whenever he makes a kill, and its typical political bureaucracy as the form looks real – but contains tons of stereotypical mythology about trolls.
The movie also plays up all the urban legends about trolls (that they live under bridges, can smell the blood of a Christian, are able to grow multiple heads, turn to stone in the daylight, etc., etc.) and presents them in new and interesting ways. For example, the bridge legend uses the “three billy goats gruff” story but does it a very intense creepy scene where the troll hunter leaves a live goat for the troll to consume. It very much plays out like something from Jurassic Park. Once we finally see the trolls, they’re also portrayed with very realistic CGI, and look exactly like you’d expect a troll to look like from mythology.
Of course, since the movie presents the events as “real life”, the troll hunter notes that trolls don’t really talk or wear clothes, claiming all of that is made up nonsense and that real trolls are just ugly stupid mammals. Troll population control is treated as the same as dealing with bears. The final shot of the movie uses actual footage (and in this case, it’s real) of a Norwegian government official letting it slip that the country has problems with “trolls”. (of course, the original statement was not in the context of the mythological creatures, but it certainly appears that way in the film).
Apparently, an American company immediately bought the rights to remake Trollhunter as a Hollywood film once the film was sold to the United States, but as of this writing, that film hasn’t been made and I hope it never is. Trollhunter works best because of its specific Norwegian setting – even the filming locations were apparently real-life spots where trolls were “traditionally” reported to be found – akin to shooting a fake documentary about ‘finding” Bigfoot in Klamath Basin area. In short, it’s a unique product of Norwegian culture, and for that I’m grateful. Sorry, Paranormal Activity – you’ve got nothing on this movie.
*** ½ out of ****