It didn't occur to me, when I read the press release for this movie "Trollhunter," that it would be a film centered around one man, an actual troll hunter. You'd think I'd take better cues from titles by now, but then again you'd figure by now I'd think about a lot of things that I don't.
However, I watched the trailer and was immediately interested. The Norwegian film, originally titled Trolljegeren ("Troll" in Norwegian is pronounced: "troll." That info is free gratis, you're welcome) was released last year in its native Norway. A bidding frenzy began, and Magnolia Pictures, producers of Centurion and Black Death, won the rights to distribute the film overseas.
It was shot in that mock cinéma vérité style, similar to The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, of which it will undoubtedly be compared to. The difference between those and this are that Trollhunter doesn't fucking suck.
If it should be compared to anything in that fictional documentary genre, (I reserve the term "mockumentary" for actual mocking, humorous films -- or just Christopher Guest movies, take your pick), District 9 is its closest companion. Both utilize special effects on non-blockbuster-budgets -- District 9 is estimated to have cost $30 million to make, and my math may be a little fuzzy, but I think the total for Trollhunter was under $4 million in U.S. dollars. That's amazing, considering that they were able to animate several different types of trolls really well. (Of course, they did have the benefit of low-light situations -- trolls can't walk around during daylight, natch. Still, in terms of cost, this was no Jurassic Park.)
The troll hunter of the title is named Hans, and is portrayed by Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen. I don't know what kind of comedy they've got in Norway, but this man is a tremendous actor. Hans is my new Indiana Jones.
The rest of the cast are relative unknowns, both to Americans and Norwegians. This keeps with the premise that the footage we're watching was actually "discovered" (much like Blair Witch) after the events took place, with the original filmmakers' whereabouts unknown.
Let's get the complaints out of the way: My only real problem with the way the film was put together were the jump cuts just for jump cuts' sake. I can understand why, after a big action scene, the shots would change right away. You're not paying to animate the cleaning up of troll guts, even though that would probably be really interesting to watch, and a real documentary team would film ALL of that.
I can even wave away the fact that a real cameraman wouldn't turn the lens away from the action. Even if you're running away from something, you turn the camera around to shoot over your shoulder. These were college students, and supposedly still teenagers. So the amateur camera work can be explained away easily. But why would the "discoverers" of the "found footage" slap everything together so messily? They wouldn't, it's just done for effect here to try and drive the point home that these are idiot students traipsing around Western Norway, chasing down whom they believe to be a bear poacher.
Where you start to forgive them is when the trolls show up. Once you've seen Hans take on a giant-assed troll and win, you're not just going to pack up and go home, no matter how much he tells you to get lost. So these kids follow the hunter everywhere, with his reluctant permission.
Hans has realized he's spent his whole life hunting trolls for a secret faction of the Norwegian government, the Troll Security Service. He's tired of the secrecy and the lying, and a few other horrific things he explains throughout the movie. In a lot of ways, this film reminded me more of The X-Files than anything I've mentioned previously. If there were going to be a new X-Files movie, it should be the remake of Trolljegeren. (Of course, they're already talking a U.S.-remake, did you even doubt it?)
I've included here some of my favorite clips from the film. They are part of longer scenes that really sold me on the whole thing. It's Hans casually recounting some of his many troll encounters. It's a troll veterinarian explaining troll physiology, and displaying her compassion for a misunderstood creature that is being systematically hunted down. It's two different types of trolls, going troll-shit crazy.
Trollhunter is available right now at Amazon.com and other Video On Demand services (or you could get it direct from Magnolia Online.) It will premiere on HDNet Movies June 8th. It will be in theaters starting June 10th.