Troll Hunter Reviewed
Since the release of a certain witch-related piece, in which three travelling students meet their demise at the hands of an unpleasant and deadly entity, the camcorder style of filming has become increasingly popular. Attempting to capture an element of realism, the ‘handicam’ replaces standard recording equipment in almost all cases, giving us a gritty, raw portrayal of events as seen through the eyes of a film’s protagonists, allowing us to experience their fear, elation and dread first-hand. To date, no film has done this quite as effectively as Andre Ovredal’s Troll Hunter.
Troll Hunter follows the activities of a group of three university students on their quest to uncover the shady activities of Hans, an individual whom they believe to be an illegal poacher. After following Hans for some time, they soon discover that the creatures he hunts are far more than humble bears. With little protest, Hans agrees to let the three follow him into Norway’s frozen wastes on his quest to reveal himself and his work to the Norwegian population, encouraging them to understand the importance of the troll and its effect upon Scandinavia’s eco-system.
The film is rife with references to traditional fairy tales, with some trolls being found living under bridges, eating livestock, and turning to stone when exposed to sunlight. If we dig deep enough, we can see that Troll Hunter contains something of an eco-message; ideas of global warming, energy efficiency and electricity consumption are all considered, and even the humble troll itself stands as something of a metaphorical scapegoat for having caused the environmental issues that plague our planet.
Visually, Troll Hunter looks wonderful, and the ‘handicam’ style of filming lends itself well in creating a realistic, lifelike-feeling piece of cinema, regardless of how farfetched its concept clearly is. Acting on the part of everyone involved feels genuinely human, with improvisation clearly being used to great effect. Though he is portrayed as a shady, reclusive individual, Hans (played by Otto Jesperson) becomes a likable, honest and caring chap, whose plight is clearly a noble one.
Though it would have been easy for the film to take the classic-but-overused Blair Witch route, filling itself with frights and jumpy bits, Troll Hunter instead opts for a more documentary style, with character development, horror, and even humour seemingly taking a back-seat in favour of a richer story. While the film’s CGI is nothing to write home about, it has a certain modest appeal, the simplicity of which works much more effectively in conveying realism than anything WETA or Industrial Light & Magic may have added, had they been involved.
It’s difficult not to compare Troll Hunter to other films of its ilk, and it often stands as something of a juxtaposition against pieces such as the aforementioned Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, in that it dares to go a step further. Rather than limiting appearances of its main antagonists to a bare minimum, Troll Hunter instead takes every opportunity to show off these lumbering beasties, allowing us to ogle at their gargantuan appearance, and putting emphasis upon the lead characters’ fear as they remain rooted to one spot, staring into the face of a ten-metre tall giant.
Overall, Troll Hunter is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema, combining equal parts thriller, comedy and suspense in creating a truly unique film that dares to break boundaries and pioneer new territory for the ‘mockumentary’ style, with just a pinch of horror thrown in for good measure. Though some might find its lo-fi CGI a little crude and rudimentary, it truly goes the distance in attempting to build a gritty, genuine-feeling account of some arguably farfetched events in the frozen wastes and thick forests of Norway.