The “found-footage” sub-genre of horror movie has been around since the 80s but has really blossomed in the last 10 years or so, due in a large part to the success of The Blair Witch Project. It’s also partly because horror is a genre which thrives on what you can’t see, not just what you can and found-footage films are relatively cheap to make (Blair Witch had a budget of about $500k; the more recent Paranormal Activity was made for under $20k).
While the small budget makes them numerous, the decent ones stand out because they rely on the creativity of the filmmaker and not the wallpaper of special effects.
Troll Hunter is a found-footage film which is doubly impressive in that not only was it filmed on a small budget but it also manages to deliver visual thrills which are much better than bigger budget Hollywood romps.
Investigative student filmmakers – Thomas (GlennErland Tosterud), sound-recordist Johanna (Johanna Morck) and cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) set out to interview an alleged bear poacher called Hans (Otto Jespersen). He initially brushes them off but eventually confides that far from hunting bears, he’s actually Norway’s only troll hunter and is responsible for keeping the troll population in check while hiding the secret from the civilian populace.
However, Hans is sick of being ordered about by the Troll Security Service and so lets the trio tag along as he hunts down the deadly Ringelfinch troll with a gigantic UV cannon capable of turning them to stone.
For a film with such a small budget (£500k), the troll effects are incredible and display a wide range of creativity in their design. Hans peppers his hunting expeditions with titbits of troll lore that are amalgamations of information found in classic fairytales. This leads to some great troll-related humour including an inspired scene involving three goats and bridge and a great played-straight gag about trolls being able to smell Christian blood.
When it does show up, the Ringelfinch doesn’t disappoint and forms the centrepiece of an exciting climax – a brilliant chase which recalls the heart-pounding T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park. The setting helps enormously as Norway’s barren and snow-blanketed landscape looks wild and untamed. After all, who knows what dwells amid those frozen craggy peaks?
It has similar feel to the excellent Rare Exports released last year about the capture of Santa Claus – a fairytale world brought under the cold, hard scrutiny of reality.
Jespersen is especially good as the gruff troll hunter – a tough man with an unpleasant job to do and a dry sense of humour. As he’s the only person that knows about trolls, he acts as the film’s de facto narrator. Unfortunately this is largely at the expense of the other characters, who, with little to no character development are simply relegated to tasty meaty snacks for the rampaging trolls. It’s hard to care about characters you know nothing about.
Nevertheless, Troll Hunter is an impressive found-footage movie which is not only fun and knowing but also has a great capacity to surprise visually. It’s testament to it s popular appeal that an American remake is in the works (American remakes of Scandinavian films seem to be “in” right now) but it’s difficult to see how Troll Hunter could be improved by extracting it from its native Norway.