It’s not about forum moderation…
Netflix has been having its issues of late—price increases, bizarre business model alterations—thankfully the whole Qwikster idiocy has now been abandoned, but with all the rough patches it was nice to fire something up this last weekend that reminded me why I fell in love in the first place.
Troll Hunter (original title: Trolljegeren) is a Norwegian film shot in the “mockudrama” style first brought into modern popularity by The Blair Witch Project and since used in many subsequent films such as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and (as reviewed earlier on this very site) Diary of the Dead.
In that Diary of the Dead article I briefly mentioned how this whole cinéma vérité trend was getting a little annoying and, ironically, false in its presentation. Cloverfield did little for me except make me feel seasick. The final frames of Paranormal Activity were so silly and predictable to me that I started laughing, which I doubt is the emotion the filmmakers were going for. Therefore, when Troll Hunter opened with a black screen printed with yellow text declaring that what you are about to see is representative of 283 hours of film anonymously delivered (so far unable to be declared a prank by the experts that have examined it!), I groaned, and groaned further when the movie started and it became clear this “found footage” was shot by three students—two guys, one gal—for their college project.
Still, I’d seen a decent looking online trailer and heard some good word of mouth about the film, so hell, even if it’s a Norwegian remake of Blair Witch, maybe it would at least be as entertaining as Dead Snow, which was pretty much a Norwegian remake of Evil Dead. Besides, I wanted to know what exactly was on top of those giant legs in the poster. I kept watching, and I’m glad I did, because this movie has something that Blair Witch very much lacked: a hunter.
And not a hunter in the sense of Beowulf, but a hunter more like John Wayne in Hatari! A guy who treats what we would consider spectacular as just his job. There is an ingenious conceit at the heart of Troll Hunter that rescues it from mockudrama hell, and it is subtly foreshadowed right from the start as sanctioned bear hunters are being interviewed and speaking of how they are carefully licensed and reviewed by the government in their job of controlling the bear population.
Some brilliant soul took that idea and cross-pollinated it with Norwegian folklore, and Troll Hunter is the result as these college kids end up following and documenting the activities of an unsung, lonely man whose job it is to track and occasionally cull, well… you get the idea.
It’s a fun movie, full of the sorts of inventive explanations we’ve gotten used to in telling us how other creatures of myth and legend might exist in our modern world, but treading fresher territory than vampires, witches and werewolves. Not to mention it’s full of the fascination and attention to detail you usually only give to the particular monsters of your own backyard. Troll in America is a rather generic term, and these days maybe something people think of first and foremost in its Internet context. The trolls of Norway are a varied lot who seem to be quite at home in the landscape no matter how outlandish they get in their appearance. There’s a lot of beautiful landscape shots which might seem like time-wasters, but honestly to me served to ground the legends in the land. How did those huge rocks move overnight? Trolls moved them! Are the government’s explanations any less ridiculous?
I love the ideas in this film, and the visuals, and the tone. I even love the fact that on the one hand it tries to scientifically explain why trolls turn to stone in sunlight, but completely handwaves the demonstrable fact they can smell the blood of “a Christian man”. I love the world-weary hunter who goes stalking a 600 foot behemoth because it’s his job, and if he doesn’t do it, who will? The bureacrats filing the “Slayed Troll” forms for the TSS (Troll Security Service)? Pshht. Don’t make him laugh.
Of course, an American remake is already in the works, but at the risk of sounding irredeemably hipster, I urge you to check out the original. If you’ve got Netflix, it’s just an Instant View away right now. The thing is, again, this movie just seems so dependent on its locale, and that locale’s specific mythology, in a way that others of its ilk might not be, and Hollywood can’t seem to touch any of these without ripping them out of their original setting in order to appeal to a “broader audience”. I don’t think a remake will justify the shakycam it’s shot with, but this original was a pleasant surprise that surpassed the cliches of its presentation.