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Friday, April 29, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: Troll Hunter

As I mentioned in my review of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival is going on, and I couldn't honestly say I'd been to an international film festival without taking in at least one international film. Enter the first Norwegian feature I've ever seen: Troll Hunter.

As you know, I love movies where the action is filmed entirely by the main characters. Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, I enjoyed them all so much I stayed away from Paranormal Activity 2 just so I wouldn't break the streak. I still haven't broken it.

Troll Hunter starts with the usual framing device: here's this footage that was found, make of it what you will. Then we're watching some lame student film project made by some kids who are looking into a rash of bear-poachings. But as with any bear-poaching investigation in the Scandinavian wilderness, not everything is as it seems.

As is required in stories like this, the kids ignore multiple warnings and pieces of well-intentioned advice, and track down the creepy, grizzled, secretive figure who is suspected of the bear poachings. After several abortive meetings with him, there is a very dramatic one in the middle of the night in which they discover that he is no bear-poacher, but…well, you know I hate to use spoilers, but the title of the movie is kind of a giveaway.

I saw this with Chao and D. Rough, who referred to this as The Blair Troll Project, which is totally fair. But where Blair Witch is just a straight line of increasing mystery and fear, Hans the Troll Hunter and his young charges get to spend a lot of quality time together, meaning he serves as our guide through his shadowy, one-man world of Norwegian troll hunting. One of the main aspects of which is the government cover-up that keeps the public ignorant of the existence of trolls. By the time we're done, the only real unanswered questions are the ones regarding exactly what happened right at the end, but that's plenty.

Unsurprisingly, the best scenes are the ones where Hans tangles with the trolls out in the field. One really gets a sense of the variety inherent in a troll hunter's job, with the different breeds and situation one runs into. Unfortunately, you also get some looks at the trolls that are just a little too clear, and although they're plenty ugly, they tend to have these big bulbous noses that severely cut into their scariness factor. The other problem is pacing. Between troll encounters, there are lots of long, talky, expository scenes where Hans explains the various ins and outs of his spectacularly crappy, stinky, unrewarding job, his dissatisfaction with which is his main impetus for bringing these kids along to begin with. And the less said about the movie's "scientific" explanation for how trolls get killed, the better. But the movie says a lot about it anyway.

The other thing separating this from Blair Witch is the humor. There's some pretty decent black comedy in this thing, and I'm pretty sure almost all of it is intentional. Although it's hard to tell with these stoic Scandinavians sometimes.

Trolls probably aren't going to be replacing vampires or zombies in pop culture any time soon, but this has some pretty indelible images, building to a climactic payoff. And if a movie can make trolls entertaining to someone who used to hunt them down on internet message boards like me, it'll probably work on anyone.

posted by M. Giant 10:22 PM 0 comments


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