This Norwegian "found footage" film has been garnering astonishing word-of-mouth around the world and rightfully so. Trollhunter is yet another fantastic genre offering from the Scandinavian countries (after last year's brilliant Rare Exports from Finland) that breathes new life into the cinema.
Three Norwegian students are making a documentary on some illegal bear killings - bears keep turning up shot, though never by licensed hunters and with some things distinctly off about them. The bear may perhaps not be native to the area, or there are no tracks around the bear corpse. This is when they hit upon Hans (a perfectly curmudgeonly Otto Jespersen), a mysterious hunter they suspect of being behind the bear killings. They follow him and learn there are creatures much worse than bears roaming the Norwegian countryside...
It’s almost a shame the film had to be called Trollhunter; you can only imagine what the experience would have been to have been dumped in that situation, just as the young students are. After a particularly rollicking reveal of the hidden truth – trolls getting out of their protected enclaves and being hunted down by Hans – the old hunter opens up to the kids and allows them to follow and film him. He’s a man working a hard, thankless job and, after a few decades of it, is pretty much fed up. And what’s rather brilliant is how very much like regular jobs his one of hunting trolls is: he gets no recognition for his work, the higher-ups don’t listen to him but he’s pretty much stuck in the job for life.
It is impressive that Trollhunter avoids almost all of the usual traps of the “found-footage genre” – no perfectly framed shots of the trolls here (yes, I’m looking directly at you Cloverfield), no sickeningly shaky camera work (yes, there is some shaky camera work but never in over abundance). The three journalism/film students are perfect audience surrogates, the cameraman filming the action even as Hans explains trolls and troll behaviour to them and, by extension, us. And one of the students is a sound tech! Huzzah! An actual nod given to how they are able to capture decent sound on these types of films (camera mics are notoriously shitty). All of the characters are engaging enough that you’re not actively hoping for their deaths – again quite a change from other found footage films, where the idiotic teenagers at the heart of it all just piss you off so much you can barely wait for the witch or giant monster of ghost or whatever to brutally murderise them. Not everyone makes it to the end of Trollhunter and I actually found I cared if they did or not.
Director Andre Ovredal and his art team have incorporated elements of troll mythology into their world and created vibrant, and very different, species of troll. They encounter four very distinct troll types, and the students greet them all with an appropriate mixture of fear and awe. This is an adventure film, though like none you’ve seen before. Trollhunter easily leapfrogs (or strides over) the Festival’s other low budget sci-fi Another Earth as a low budget sci-fi/fantasy offering that has smarts and a sense of fun.