Across the remotest mountains, deepest fjords and treacherous arctic tundra of Norway, the most dangerous and secretive of occupations has gone unnoticed for hundreds of years. By the dark of the night, one brave, mysterious man protects the innocent from an ancient and deadly threat without reward or glory. He is the legendary Troll Hunter.
This year’s boldness award goes to Troll Hunter. The simple fact that a Norwegian film has managed to grab so much attention is justification enough for such an accolade, but when you consider its concept you could almost stand up and give the air a nice congratulatory round of applause. The film has barely hit our screens and word has got out that Chris Columbus has bagged the rights to make yet another Hollywood adaptation à la The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, or Let Me In.
Before we see anything writer and director André Øvredal treats us to the conceit that what we are about to see is found footage, believed to be authentic, taken by a group of student filmmakers. Parallels with District 9 are naturally made, both being monster films of sorts, with a commitment to their documentary styles. Unlike District 9, however, every subsequent scene of Troll Hunter is captured by one of the characters so The Blair Witch Project is a comparison a little closer to the mark.
The students, Thomas (Tosterud), Johanna (Mørck) and Kalle (Larsen) are investigating an illegal poacher, a person they believe to be killing bears outside the jurisdiction of Norway’s sanctioned bear hunters. Naïve, nervous and a little inept, they follow Hans (Jespersen) and witness his unusual sleeping patterns. After some failed attempts to interview him and one bizarre encounter in the woods, they, rather easily to be honest, convince him to let them tag along whilst he supposedly hunts trolls. Cue laughter and ridicule. At this point the ease at which everything occurs might be a little unsettling, but it’s truly a smudge on the otherwise shiny brilliance of this film.
From here Troll Hunter really shows us its got balls. Amidst the cute, funny filming comes, brazen as you like, a monstrous, ridiculous troll. With three heads. It’s exhilarating to watch this mad combination of realistically shot footage and utter fantasy. From here the film combines the two perfectly, creating an extremely well thought out world where the government keep troll’s under wraps, fairytale law is handled with modern ingenuity and the world’s sole troll hunter must fill out a Slayed Troll Form every time he nabs one. Troll bureaucracy. Brilliant.
It would be easy for the film to fall into the trap of becoming an out-and-out monster chase film, but the pacing remains calm, reality resuming after each hunt. The best moments in the film are not the troll battles, but rather the moments between the film’s human characters. The stiff lipped government man who must parade around the woods on bear paw stilts to cover up the trolls’ existence is hilarious in his angry encounters with the student and Tosterud, in particular, delivers a perfectly clumsy, ingenuous performance as front man to the student’s project.
The film’s climax not only shows off some impressive CGI, but some wholly impressive choreography involving the van, and just finally confirms that no, you will not be seeing anything like this all year. Go see it, laugh, gawp and give the air that nice round of applause that it deserves.