Fantastic Review: Troll Hunter

Deep in the heart of the Norwegian woods, there’s a giant menace standing tall against the landscape. That menace is power lines, and the people hate the power lines.

However, they’re completely necessary to keep the trolls at bay.

Troll Hunter is a found-footage style faux-doc that sees a crew of young teenagers (whose names matter about as much as their characters) heading out into the dangerous woods to track down the guy on the government dole who manages the troll population in secret. Hans reluctantly takes them into his world, and soon, they’re running for their lives and praying that the UV lamps on the top of his truck still have some battery life left in case they need to turn a 20-story baddie to stone.

There’s something special about this film. Even as we delve deeper and deeper into the technological possibilities of movie magic, it’s still surprising whenever a low budget film displays beautiful imagery with the help of CGI. That’s the most evident joy of Troll Hunter. Unlike Cloverfield and other found footage flicks, this one does its best to leave the monsters in full focus, often taking up center spotlights (ironically), and they couldn’t look better. The trolls are crisp, haunting, and dangerous.

On the downside, the film suffers from some of the same problems that other found footage movies do. For one, the gimmick is tired. For two, everything that’s not action is dull filler. The characters, except for Hans the Troll Hunter, could have been replaced by inanimate objects and the movie would have been similar as long as the inanimate objects had some sort of reason to hunt trolls. They’re walking exposition, and the film even recognizes this in a scene later on in the film. Not in a self-aware sort of way, but in a way that only makes it more clear that they did little on the side of rounding out their characters.

Without meaningful characters, the troll attacks are pure spectacle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice to feel some tension and concern for the people running in fear instead of feeling nothing except awe at the vision on the screen.

Fortunately, the actor who plays Hans is interesting enough to carry the project all on his own. He’s a gruff, isolated man who is ready to quit his very unique job and, judging by his kind demeanor, go do volunteer work with at risk youth. His apathy at bringing the camera crew into the biggest, smelliest secret that Norway has to offer (except for its delicious rotten shark treats) runs afoul of the local game warden who is bound and determined to steal the tapes and keep everything quiet.

Even then, that subplot goes nowhere because the character does more to threaten than to actually take the simple action of arresting the camera crew and taking their tapes.

Essentially, the movie is a handful of spectacular action scenes that require wading through boredom to get to. That’s unfortunate, because there were a lot of great opportunities to make an interesting story stand as the background of the creature feature, and there are a few charming moments, but ultimately the only reason to enjoy the film is the technical achievement and the camerawork. But that’s what they said about Avatar too, right?

The trailer below ruins all of the money shots, so I suggest not seeing it before checking the film out, but if you want it, here it is (courtesy of Twitch):

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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