Troll Hunter
Medium: film
Year: 2010
Writer/director: Andre Ovredal
Keywords: fantasy
Country: Norway
Language: Norwegian, English
Actor: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Urmila Berg-Domaas, Hans Morten Hansen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Naerum, Eirik Bech, Inge Erik Henjesand, Tom Jorgensen, Benedicte Aubert Ringnes, Magne Skjaevesland, Torunn Lodemel Stokkeland, Finn Norvald Ovredal, Kaja Halden Aarrestad
Format: 103 minutes
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 13 December 2013
It's a Norwegian found footage mockumentary about hunting trolls. It came out the same year as Finland's Rare Exports, oddly enough, which is a similar film except for being about feral Santa Claus monsters. That's the more interesting of the two films, but they're both fun.
The difference between them is that Troll Hunter is simpler. It doesn't have a twist. Three students (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck, Tomas Alf Larsen) are trying to make a documentary about someone they think is a bear poacher (Otto Jespersen). You need a licence to hunt bears in Norway. The official bear hunters are narked. Our heroes thus go trailing after Jespersen into the forest, ignoring his attempts to tell them to go away.
He's not hunting bears.
That's it, really. Eventually, Jespersen lets these students tag along as he goes about his troll-hunting duties. What's cool about all this is the seriousness with which the film treats the idea of trolls living in the wild areas of Norway. It's realistic. We're given scientific explanations for troll biology and Jespersen gets given jobs like taking a blood sample from a twenty-foot tall monster that wants to bite his head off. Rather him than me. The found-footage format helps too, enforcing an artless style that adds to the realism.
There's also a final scene that would have meant more to a domestic audience. The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is talking to the press and mentions trolls. The joke still works if you don't recognise him, though.
The trolls are the stars of the show, obviously. What's special about them is that they're so unexpected. Vampires, werewolves, etc. are drawn from the real legends of many cultures and were a belief of previous centuries. Orcs, goblins, etc. are standard Tolkeinesque fantasy. Trolls, on the other hand, are from children's fairy tales. Admittedly they're technically from Nordic folklore and you can see them knocking around from time to time in other fantasy (e.g. Harry Potter), but even so they're on a level of kiddification on a par with Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Thus it's entertaining just to see them being taken seriously as man-eating monsters. The film doesn't try to claim that everything is true from all possible stories, but they retain enough recognisable detail to make these trolls distinctive. The dangers of religion are the wackiest bit, hence also the funniest.
There are different kinds of trolls. Some live in mountains. Some live under bridges, so they try to lure it out with a goat. They also look like the mental picture of a troll you didn't know you had, more specifically being based on the paintings of Theodor Kittelsen and John Bauer. These trolls come in approximately two sizes: (a) really big, and (b) bigger.
I don't have much more to say. It's quite fun. It also stars a number of famous Norwegian comedians, but I presume that's a "Norwegian TV" definition of fame and I'd never heard of them. It's all a riff on the one basic joke and it could have been shortened painlessly, but I don't mind. Look out for the moment where we mistake a troll's leg for a tree. The ending is a bit "eh?" but it's not hard to infer what I think we're meant to think had happened. If you liked Rare Exports, this is a bit like that, but more straightforward. Still entertaining, though.