Look, we might as well get used to these “found footage,” mockumentary horror films that gained popularity with Blair Witch Project and then really took off in the last few years with films like Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead and [REC] – they sure ain’t going anywhere. Although the concept already feels a little exhausted, it’s important to remember that there were the occasional diamonds in the rough of any overdone horror sub-genre, like slashers and zombie films. And really, it’s all worth it if every once and awhile we get a movie as fun and original as Troll Hunter.

As far as I know, Troll Hunter is the first Norwegian horror film I have ever seen, but if I had to guess what a Norwegian horror film WOULD be, I probably would have guessed something about trolls. And so it’s cool that writer/director Andre Ovredal most likely understood this sort of perception of his home country’s most famous mythological creature, and decided to tweak it with a film that mixes the well-known legends and fairy tales with Hollywood-style action.

The film follows three students making a documentary on bear poaching. They decide to follow one particular hunter, Hans, who is not too happy about this and tells them to keep away. Undeterred, the trio follow him into the woods one night, only to soon find out his real occupation – Hans is a troll hunter, tasked by the government to both destroy trolls and get rid of evidence of their existence, so as to assure people will continue to think of them as nothing more than stories. With the cat out of the bag, Hans reluctantly agrees to allow the three to film his work, although he has an ulterior motive – Hans has grown disgusted with his job, and hopes that once the footage goes public, the government might be forced to change how they deal with trolls.

This all might sound pretty goofy, but the best thing about Troll Hunter is how serious it takes its subject matter. That’s not to say there isn’t any comedy here, because there is – but this is no goofy horror comedy – most of the humor comes from Hans’ no-nonsense attitude about what seem to be such ridiculous ideas (and since Hans is constantly proven to be telling the truth, it makes sense, as well).

The other great thing about Troll Hunter, and you might have gotten a sense of this while watching the above trailer, is how awesome the effects are. I don’t if this was a big-budget or low-budget movie by Norwegian standards, but damn does it look good. Trolls as depicted in this movie are giants beasts, and every time they appear on-screen and chase the lead characters, they look and feel incredibly real. Obviously, the dark cinematography and shaky visuals help this as well, but overall these are really impressive effects, and I don’t think any eventual Hollywood remake (of which there have been rumors) could really do it any better.

My only complaint is that the movie feels a bit long. Ovredal is obviously very pleased with the new rules and explanations he has come up with for trolls and the old myths about them (like how they can smell the blood of Christians), and it shows in just how many scenes are devoted to Hans giving this info to the three students. Since the troll scenes are such a blast, there are more than a few occasions where the exposition scenes feel like they are dragging a bit too much and keeping us from the good stuff.

But the good stuff is REALLY good stuff, and it’s here in spades. There are a number of fun and exciting sequences, and Hans is one of the coolest hero characters to grace the horror genre in awhile. Check this one out, for sure.

 

 

This review was originally posted on May 14th, 2011 at Trevor Likes Movies.

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