Leave it to those crazy Norwegians to finally get that whole “found footage” genre a satisfying entry. You see, this whole genre has been plagued with problems since it first started. For every good one (Man Bites Dog or [Rec]), comes 57 bad ones (Cloverfield, Apollo 18, The Last Exorcism). The problems with those films are all the same too. The story takes too long to get off the ground (remember that painfully bad party sequence at the beginning of Cloverfield?), the characters are nothing shy of awful and/or disconnected (again, see Cloverfield), the premise never fully realizes itself until it’s too late (I’ll point you to The Last Exorcism for that), and most of the time they take themselves way too seriously.
You know what film I was going to use as an example for that last bit, right?
Then along comes Troll Hunter and while it isn’t a great movie by any stretch, it gives this whole genre something to strive for. The characters, 3 students from a local college doing a report on bear hunters, shy themselves away from “found footage” stereotypes by actually appearing to be normal-sounding people. They never appear to annoying, too controlling, or too idiotic. Nor do they ever try to strive for Academy recognition by over acting to the point of nausea.
While doing their research, they stumble upon stories of a mysterious hunter who only hunts at night. The students then seek to find out more about this mysterious hunter when a string of dead bears show up in odd configurations. They secretly follow him all over the countryside until they are finally able to successfully follow him into the woods unnoticed one gloomy evening. After lamenting in the fact that they lost his trail for a few minutes, strange noises and lights appear from the other side of the woods. The hunter comes from nowhere, running, and yelling, “Troll!”
Confused, the filmmakers run out of the woods after him. The man insists that he is a troll hunter but the crew does not buy it at first. Until they finally see a troll, then they become just as captivated to continue onward as the hunter is. The rest of the film follows the exploits of the hunter and his prey, and the different sorts of devices he uses to destroy them.
What makes this film work so well is how well thought-out their premise is. Making a film about troll hunting that actually works isn’t the easiest sell but they handled the material nicely. Every question you could have as to why the rest of us don’t know of trolls existence is answered in such a way that the viewer won’t really question it. The filmmakers have figured out a simplistic way to handle that in ways other films of the genre can’t seem to grasp.
That isn’t to say that this film is without its flaws. Some of the CG work could use improvement and some of the different species of trolls look downright goofy. Which is a shame too, as the film is so wonderfully photographed. There is a never a moment of shaky absurdness these films seem to turn to in order to create some sort of phony realism.
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And though we have learned it by watching Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, trolls really can be assholes.
Troll Hunter can be found on DVD and Blu Ray now.