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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 27
Inventive Trollhunter fun, but forgettable
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Inventive Trollhunter fun, but forgettable

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Trollhunter
Opening July 8


When Volda College students Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), and Johanna (Johanna Mørck) go into the Norwegian countryside to document a series of recent bear attacks, they come across a stranger named Hans (Otto Jespersen), who is apparently hunting bears illegally. The students follow this strange, weathered man as he goes on his nightly hunts, and film everything in hopes of catching something useful for their school documentary project.

What they capture is footage of trolls - actual, bona fide, live-under-a-bridge, smell-the-blood-of-a-Christian-man, turn-to-stone-in-sunlight trolls. Turns out the government has gone out of its way to hide their existence for eons, hiring ex-soldiers like Hans to keep the troll population in check and keep the public from knowing they're out there. But Hans is tired of the secrecy and doesn't like the layers of bureaucracy he has to wade through in order to do his job. It's time the truth about trolls was uncovered, and these three excitable and driven students are just the ones to help him get the word out.

The Norwegian import Trollhunter is a 'found footage' film along the same lines as [Rec], The Blair Witch Project, and Cloverfield. It is another entry in the genre, shaky-cam over-the-shoulder footage capturing the action in documentary-like detail in an attempt to make it a more visceral and realistic experience for the audience.

While I'm tired of this trend, it must be admitted that writer/director André Øvredal's fantastical real-world fairy tale opus gets the job done, delivering a 90-minute entertainment that's as silly and nonsensical as it is fun. While there are some dry spots, and while it doesn't always come together, for the most part this movie is an engaging and inventive treat filled with imagination. The filmmaker has crafted a mythology for his hunter and for the creatures he is tracking that is as wild as it is inspired, making things far more believably authentic than they would have been otherwise.

At the same time, this is awfully slight stuff, and like most films in this genre, at a certain point the surprise vanishes as there is only one way for things to end. As glorious as the final hunt is (the crew finds itself pitted against a massive 'Jotnar' troll hiding in the frigid and icy mountains of Norway, Hans blaring 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus' over his vehicle's speakers to draw it out into the open), what happens is hardly a shock. These pictures are sadly starting to lose their allure, and reenergizing them will take some major work by a convention-smashing filmmaker.

Øvredal is not that filmmaker. For all his movie's whimsy and imagination, he rarely strays from the expected template. As much fun as learning about 'Ringlefinches' and 'Tosserlads' is (they're varieties of trolls), seeing it through the camera lens as photographed by Thomas, Kalle, and Johanna is strictly by-the-numbers. The rapid-fire dialogue, the running through the woods in confusion, the wavering focus of the camera as it eyes the gigantic Jotnar - all of it has been done so many times before that the impact is lessened, and for all the film's strengths, that one minus is difficult to overlook.

Still, like I already stated, Trollhunter can be a major blast. Jespersen is great as the oafish Hans, his indignity as he dons a metal suit of armor to extract a blood sample from a sick Ringlefinch or the way he bristles at filling out his 'Slayed Troll Form' fits the character perfectly. The first encounter with the Tosserlad is so good it literally caused me to squeal in embarrassed girlish glee, while some of the bureaucratic jokes (including the ones involving imported bear carcasses) are inspired. In short, for all its over-familiarity I liked this movie and had a heck of a time watching it, and as late night rentals or fodder for midnight matinees go, Øvredal's fantasy-fueled flick fits the bill nicely.

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