It’s got shaky, hand-held camerawork. It’s got a documentary, found-footage vibe, with portentous opening captions solemnly promising raw, unaltered material. And it has trolls. Proper, Norwegian trolls, galumphing through Norwegian forests and snowy Norwegian tundra. It also has a troll hunter: which is helpful, as the film’s called The Troll Hunter.
The documentary ostensibly being filmed is a student project, an attempt to investigate an apparent bear poacher. The three filmmakers – camera, sound and talent – follow this alleged poacher with his battered caravan as he travels from damp location to damp location, like a discarded segment from Top Gear. Happily for us it doesn’t take too long for the students to discover the truth. We see the first troll moments after the troll hunter, using the world-renowned “running away” method of hunting trolls, encounters the students deep in a forest and roars “TROLL”, eyeballs out, in their innocent Norwegian lugholes. Thereafter they work together, the students recording the troll hunter’s unexpectedly interesting nightlife.
Like Let the Right One In, the film benefits from its sometimes bleak Scandinavian setting and – for the British audience – unfamiliar cast (apparently the troll hunter is a well-known Norwegian comedian). The subtitles help, too.
It’s confidently made and unafraid to incorporate a little dark humour. Only once did I feel a plot development was overly signposted, and its aftermath was curiously under-explored. (Look at me, sucking on a pencil pretending I know what I’m talking about.)
The found-footage approach is occasionally mildly tiresome: we probably don’t need to see quite so many drizzled-upon lakes and steamed-up car windows. I suspect Cloverfield is the root of the current fashion for this technique; although I enjoyed Cloverfield, it rather succumbed to a virulent strain of the delusional illness known as Lucas. Latin name verdus maximus: we can do green screen, we shall do green screen, let’s wreak devastation on a scale hitherto only realised via the medium of plot. The Troll Hunter is thankfully much
cheaper more restrained than Cloverfield: it’s CGI in service of story rather than trebles all round at WETA and chums.
In a sense, and I know I’m in danger of contradicting what I’ve just said, what excites me most about the film is the knowledge that believable, sophisticated motion-tracked effects are now available to relatively low-budget films – in this case, reportedly £3.5m. Such is the onward, mighty march of the nerds. It means that films like this one – hardly likely to interest a big Hollywood studio – can still be made, and made well, without papier mache trolls and comedy modelwork. Perhaps this normalisation will filter up to those with bigger budgets, leading to fewer cases of Lucas. I suspect not: my money’s still on an all-green remake of Episode IV by 2017. “Nooooooooo!” to coin a phrase.
Recommended, with one caveat: as with Cloverfield, if wobbly camerawork wonks up your balance, steer clear. It’s not a friendly film for those with balance conditions.
Avaragado’s rating: boiled furballs