As big as monster movies are, monsters just aren’t very big anymore. Maybe we just don’t buy it anymore, the idea of towering goliaths crunching puny mortals beneath their feet, now that we’ve explored the full expanse of the planet and understand enough about atomic energy to realize that amazing colossal men aren’t actually going to be a part of our future. The Troll Hunter, a Norwegian film about – what else? – a professional troll hunter, is a throwback to those days when here, there or everywhere could be dragons. Metaphorically speaking, of course. There’s no such thing as dragons. But after watching Andre Ovredal’s new film you might be on the lookout for trolls the next time you go camping.
Told in a documentary film style, The Troll Hunter follows a team of student filmmakers on the hunt for a reclusive bear hunter, played by the Grizzly Adams-esque Otto Jesperson. Their target lives in seclusion, trapped inside a Winnebago with suspicious claw marks on the side when he’s not trudging through the wilderness with a grim expression on his face. After tracking this man to a mysterious forest, he reveals to the filmmakers that he’s not a bear hunter. He’s actually hunting trolls.
Being halfway intelligent human beings his confession is met with, at best, skepticism… until a monster with more heads than any creature ought to have bursts through the forest, as tall as a football field is long. Yes, this man is a troll hunter. He tracks down giant monsters, kills them, sometimes even turns them to stone, and he’s really, really bored with his job. So he lets the filmmakers tag along even though the existence of trolls is a tightly kept government secret. The trolls are restless, you see, and wandering outside their preserves in unusually violent rages. Well, unusual for a troll.
The Troll Hunter deserves credit for making trolls – a monster without a single hit movie to its credit – into a terrifying movie antagonist. As our heroes find themselves encountering larger and larger trolls, one of them almost impossibly large, the peril expands exponentially despite the kooky premise. The troll hunter himself takes no joy in his work, and his tired outlook on the film’s impressive action sequences contrast neatly with the slack-jawed terror his young charges bring to the story. The documentary style gives the film just a twinge of realism – Troll Hunter feels like the season finale of an unusually impressive A&E reality television series – and the shaky camera movements never betray the film’s low-budget origins. The special effects in The Troll Hunter may not technically be on par with Thor, but Andre Ovredal’s commitment to understatement makes his trolls as believable as any dinosaur in Jurassic Park.
The Troll Hunter makes its American premiere this week as a Video On Demand release, and while I recommend seeing the film in any venue this is a theatrical experience at heart. The sense of scale Ovredal concocts is rare in any movie, and unless you have one hell of a home theater setup I recommend watching the film in theaters whenever you get the chance. Although technically a small scale foreign film, The Troll Hunter is as exciting a Hollywood blockbuster as you’re likely to find, and funny to boot. It’s rare to see a film as droll as it is troll.
Crave Online Review: 8.5/10