Trollhunter is a rare thing – a modern horror film which eschews visceral gore for subtlety and a genuine air of unease. Starring Otto Jespersen, Glen Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck and Tomas Alf Larsen, Norwegian director Andre Ovredal’s debut feature was a smash when screened at London’s Film4 Frighfest. Watching it on DVD you’ll understand why.
Something is killing tourists and livestock in the frozen wastes of Norway. Three students, Thomas (Tosterud), Johanna (Morck) and Kalle (Larsen) decide to investigate and take along a camera to record their findings. But when they come across a reclusive hunter called Hans (Jespersen), who appears to be after some very big game, they realise they might be in for more than they bargained for!
In the years since The Blair Witch Project (1999) introduced cinema goers to the ‘mockumentary’, familiarity has bred contempt. Overuse of ‘found footage’ in films like Paranormal Activity (2007), Cloverfield (2008), and the woeful Evil Things (2009) has lead to the concept loosing any of its shock value.
So how does Trollhunter achieve freshness in a field now stale and out-of-date? It’s hard to pinpoint as, on the face of it, it has little originality. The film’s protagonists are the usual group of college friends making a project documentary, whilst the government conspiracy sub-plot though neatly done has been seen before. The trolls when they eventually show themselves, despite being surprisingly unsettling (especially the towering 200 ft one who lives in the frozen wastes beyond the mountains) look like rejects from the Jim Henson school of puppetry.
However it may be the fact you don’t see much of the trolls which is the film’s saving grace. The shambling creatures which (according to Hans) fall into two groups, Mountain Trolls and Forest Trolls, which are then split into multitudinous sub groups, actually appear for very little time. But they more than make up for this in ferocity when they at last show up, destroying everything in their paths from livestock and humans to whole forests and roads. This, along with some icily beautiful mountain scenery and the cast’s tongue-in-cheek approach, lend the proceedings a disarming air of reality.
The rights to Trollhunter were already bought by Summit Entertainment for Americanisation before the initial film’s release. I urge you to see the original before Hollywood inevitably spoils this low budget gem.