A few times a year, there’s a Blair Witch Project knock-off that employs the “found footage” gimmick popularized by that film to give the audience a few good old-fashioned low-budget jumps. Improved technology has expanded this to a series of viral “did you just see that?” shorts with odd monsters visible in the middle distance, but this trend of middle-distance-menace achieves a weird sort of artistry with the Norwegian film Trollhunter (originally the cooler-sounding Trolljegeren), a slight satire that’s short on story, but offers a few amusing bits between battles with the title creatures. It opened a week ago, and current movie times can be found below.
Composed of, yes, footage found of some Norwegian college students (Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Glenn Erland Tosterud) making a documentary about bear poaching, the narrative unfolds across the overcast skies and chilly forests of Norway as they discover the potential poacher Hans (Otto Jespersen) is after something slightly bigger than bears.
The trolls aren’t developed much more than large (and large-nosed) creatures with odd weaknesses and a curiously specific skill at sniffing out Christians, but writer-director André Øvredal makes the most of their limited screen time with oddball designs reminiscent of old fairy tale illustrations.
The story mostly barrels along through a series of troll confrontations as Hans tries to figure out what’s causing this troll activity, but the most amusing part of the film—one that could use more development—is how Hans isn’t so much a bad-ass hunter but an underfunded, increasingly wary government employee annoyed at the dirty work he’s gotten into. That leads to a few scenes satirizing the Norwegian government’s cover-up of the trolls and how they fit into the country’s landscape, an idea that’s at times more entertaining than the battle scenes.
Trollhunter isn’t as rip-roaring as it wants to be, but it does achieve more with its low budget than most American horror films, and gets a few good laughs in to boot. As you might have guessed, there’s already plans for an American remake, though perhaps this one is best left as a Norwegian number—its setting and look contribute to much of its odd sense of humor.