Tuesday, September 20, 2011


TrollHunter (2010)

aka. Trolljegeren

Director: André Øvredal

RATING: 3.5 / 5

While I expected my first review on All Monsters Blog! to be of King Kong (1933), the DVD set I ordered hasn't arrived yet. It just so happens that while I've been waiting for it my local Block Buster also began its everything-must-go closing sale. While picking from the heavily discounted carcass of Block Buster's inventory, I snagged a unique film clearly in the tradition of giant monster movies but with a very different mythology and flavor. I am talking, of course, about the Norwegian monster film TrollHunter.

Much like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, TrollHunter purports to be the found footage of a lost documentary. A group of Norwegian college students are tracking a man named Hans (Otto Jespersen) who they suspect is poaching bears in Western Norway. When they finally catch up to him, however, they find out he's no normal hunter: he's Norway's only Troll Hunter! Hans is employed by the government's Troll Security Service to track and kill trolls who have ventured beyond the bounds of their territory. Yes, like every Internet forum, Norway also has a population of trolls lurking around. As you can tell from the poster above, however, some are pretty damn noticeable. Amazed by the notion that trolls are real animals that the general population has failed to notice, despite some being about 200 feet tall, the documentarians decide to follow Hans on his hunts. In return, Hans agrees to show them the secret world of trolls because he feels it's finally time the public knew the truth.

 Trolls love listening to "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chilli Peppers

The most interesting thing about TrollHunter are the trolls. Completely CGI, the trolls emerge from the beautiful forests and lush rocky hills of Norway as living, breathing creatures -- albeit as fantastical as the mythology that birthed them. The troll CGI is detailed but not photo-realistic; however, any imperfections in their digital models are softened because we often see them in the dark, through the snow, in back lit forests, or via a grainy night-vision camera. Through Hans, we are introduced to the several subgroups of woodland and mountain trolls of which we see eventually see on film: the Ringlefinch, Tosserlad, Mountain Kings, and gigantic Jotnar. If you'd like a sense of scale, the Jotnar is 200 feet tall whereas the original King Kong is only 50 feet tall. The current Godzilla is slightly taller at 267 feet. Either way, that's one hefty troll to go tromping around Norway's snowy mountains unnoticed.

Jotnar or Bust!

Half the time the trolls adhere to fairy tale and legend. As in the Norse tales, trolls live in isolated mountains, around rocks, and in caves but are partial to chilling out under bridges from time to time. Sunlight will turn them to stone and the scent of Christian blood angers them. The rest of the time, TrollHunter presents trolls as real animals. They eat, they urinate, they mate, migrate, keep territory, and don't talk or wear clothes. They're mammals and they're predators. When all is balanced, they rarely interact with people, and they're no more dangerous than the bears or wolves one might encounter in the woods. But something is not balanced. Too many trolls are showing up outside of their habitats and contributing to the death of livestock and -- perhaps -- even people. Hans must find the source of this disturbance while his bureaucratic overseers at the Troll Security Service attempt to prevent the documentary crew from filming Hans' findings.
And you thought this was the only troll you had to worry about

The moments with the trolls are scary, tense, but also funny and sometimes shockingly gross. The human characters, unfortunately, are fairly boring. Otto Jespersen manages to breathe a lot of sad mystery into the character of Hans, but the rest of the cast are perfunctory and bland. The film also doesn't do anything original with its found footage POV gimmick and sometimes is shot so cleanly and straight that I think TrollHunter forgets it is a POV film.

Hans down, best Troll Hunter since Harry Potter

That being said, TrollHunter offers some very enticing shots of Norway's beautiful landscapes and an endearing fantasy premise that delivers some highly enjoyable giant monster action. Like other giant monster movies, TrollHunter also seems to be delivering an ecological message about Global Warming and humanity's persistent obliviousness to the world around us. Like the trolls, whose attacks on people or animals are a result of an imbalance in the natural world, the effects of global warming are symptoms of ecological disruption, yet people are either oblivious to them or attempt to explain them away as something else. Throughout the film, people who have witnessed devastation by trolls likewise convince themselves they've witnessed something else instead, like a tornado. While the government keeps the giant Jotnar at bay only with an electric fence masquerading as electricity pylons, the employees of the power station don't seem that interested in finding out what a circular ring of power pylons is doing in the middle of nowhere, especially when the power doesn't flow to or from anywhere. When people do start to catch on, or Hans has an unconventional explanation for the rash of troll encounters, the Troll Security Service swoops in to incompetently cover things up and poo-poo Hans' ideas. Sound just like how governments all over the world are sweeping real evidence of Global Warming under the rug and dissuading scientists from pursuing the truth to preserve the status quo. In my mind, the trolls of TrollHunter are not just fantasy creatures but also somewhat whimsical ways of reminding us about the threats to our environment that we refuse to acknowledge.

TrollHunter has a beautiful setting, fun monsters, and a charming premise with a subtle ecological warning. Unfortunately, most of the characters we spend time with are boring and extraneous. TrollHunter is not as entertaining as it could be, but it's a fun new addition from Norway into the giant monster genre.

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