Otto Jespersen as Trolljegeren (Hans)
Hans Morten Hansen as Finn
Tomas Alf Larsen as Kalle
Johanna Mørck as Johanna
Glenn Erland Tosterud as Thomas
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
Three college students, Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle (Tosterud, Mørck, and Larsen), are investigating a strange series of occurrences around Norway, and filming their escapades. The government (led by Wildlife official Finn (Hansen)) claims the animal mutilations and destroyed trees observed in the area are a result of bears, tornadoes, or other somewhat logical explanations. However, the bear carcasses seen at the locations weren’t shot by any of the bear hunters, and the supposed tornadoes have never actually been seen. Instead, the bear hunters believe that a mysterious “poacher” has killed the bear, breaking the law. After a hunt, our intrepid trio discovers the mysterious man and his odd trailer. The man, known only as Hans (Jespersen), initially tries to avoid the group and refuses to be filmed or answer any questions.
Our trio won’t take no for an answer, though, and follows the man out into the wilderness one night. After entering a closed-off road, the group sees a bright flash of light in the distance before Hans comes charging past screaming one word: “TROLL!”. The group runs (with Thomas getting injured along the way) and manages to escape the unseen beast. Hans finally agrees to tell them all he knows about trolls, allowing them to film him and accompany him as he tries to determine why the creatures are out of their usual territory. He hopes their footage will expose the government’s cover-up of the existence of trolls and hopefully allow him to retire from his one-man-job as “Troll Hunter” or Trolljegeren.
Norway’s Trollhunter, aka Trolljegeren, is a great entry in the proud tradition of found footage horror started by films like The Last Broadcast, Cannibal Holocaust, and The Blair Witch Project. What makes it so interesting is that it’s more than that, though. True, there’s definite horror when the group is actually confronted by trolls and has to, for example, get a blood sample from one. But when they’re just hunting down where the troll stomping grounds are, the movie crosses over into action-adventure and fantasy. This movie nails the feeling of the thrill of the hunt as I found myself thinking of trolls in the same way storm chasers must think of supercells and tornadoes. The only flaw of the story is that the nature of the Trollhunter climax is a little predictable the moment Hans mentions a certain creature for the first time. Still, it’s a well-handled final sequence.
Visually and aurally, Trollhunter is breathtaking. Norway’s beautiful forests, fjords and mountains almost become secondary stars of the movie. They also add to the suspense, particularly when the troll chases occur in the pitch-dark or by the light of night-vision cameras in the forest, or a tremendously frightening sequence in a cave where a group of trolls makes its home. While the trolls are not the greatest computer effects ever, they’re well-done and do not hurt Trollhunters connection with the audience. Audio-wise, the troll hunts are made even more engaging and intense by ever-louder footsteps, screaming trolls, cracking trees, and the screams of our cast as they run. This film is a prime example of how to use technical skill to make an already great story work even better. Admittedly, if you have an issue with the type of found-footage filmmaking seen in the aforementioned examples of the genre, the film might bother you. However, to my eye, the shakycam seemed far more stable and professionally done than it has been in other movies of its ilk.
Jespersen steals the show as Hans the Troll Hunter. While the entire cast is believable, Jespersen, a popular Norwegian comedian, plays this more dramatic and darkly humorous role to perfection. He is deeply serious and no-nonsense about his job, yet finds plenty of ways to inject humor into his performance. The entire trio is pretty good, though they need to overcome the beginning of the film where their characters are not as entertaining because not taking the situation seriously. Finally, the character of Finn is decent, though one-dimensional, and is an effective villain.
Overall, Trollhunter is a fine found-footage adventure. The film’s sound design and Norwegian shooting locations all help ring further tension and excitement out of an already brilliant script and performances. The added touches of dark comedy and palpable sense of adventure make this a hunt highly recommended.