The Mockumentary genre has been assaulting audiences lately, with the likes of the Paranormal Activity franchise, the silly but audacious Catfish, as well as the scary, yet rote The Last Exorcism. When handled well, these films are appealing because they throw the whole notion of “the film experience” out the window. They focus their efforts on grounding an unbelievable scenario in a realistic world (which is why these films are often bookended with explanatory title screens).
I personally find the Paranormal Activity films to be dry and not even in the most remote sense scary, and am thus bored by them. I just don’t care if a woman stands still for extended periods of time (turn the sound off, and it’s about as riveting as watching a woman conduct a yoga pose). Troll Hunter, on the other hand, wears its inspiration on its sleeve while never ultimately taking itself too seriously.
This by no means hinders its ability to startle and delight its audience, as the proceedings do in fact seem somewhat real (thanks in part to spectacular special effects and dedicated performances by its talented cast), but it also creates a story that encourages its audience to laugh with the cast and crew, not at them. In other words, it manifests a gloriously augmented fantasy, tongue-in-cheek scenario while still boasting its true-to-life origins. It’s a balancing act that really works, making it one of the stronger entries in the “found footage” genre.
The film stars Glenn Tosterud, Johanna Morck, and Tomas Larsen as three film students who task themselves with unearthing the secrets behind the recent livestock slaughtering that has plagued Norway. There have been rumors of Troll attacks, but no actual footage to back up the claims. They follow their only potential lead, a purported “Troll Hunter” named Hans (Otto Jespersen, breathtakingly original in his role), a bearded and reclusive man who commandeers and rusted and busted jeep.
Like The Blair Witch Project, the camera acts as a POV of sorts as we watch the foursome delve deep into Norwegian territory, and subsequently, troll lore. I dare not spoil any of the proceedings, but I will say the following: the story is filled with healthy doses of horror and humor, often complimenting one another in the same sequence.
The monster’s are brilliantly rendered by the talented and caring VFX team, and it even pays an honest and endearing homage to Jurassic Park (watch out goat!). The film is incredibly good without ever being great. It touches on government corruption without ever fully developing it, and it unfortunately treats a few characters as mere propagators. Had a bit more time been spent on some of the smaller roles, I feel the film could have been even more immersive than it already stands. As is, though, it is still a delight to watch and I highly encourage you to view it with friends.
Though the film purports to be “found footage” and is therefore inherently glitchy, the sound and video quality are both brilliant. It looks and feels like an actual documentary, with sound snaps and variable focus truly selling the verite experience. The sound never once convinced me that I was watching something fake, and that alone spells volumes about the production value.
If I had only one minor complaint, it would be that the quality of Blu-Ray sometimes has the added disadvantage of separating fact from fiction. In this case, it’s with the trolls themselves. While they look fantastic and are often convincing, the lack of an blur effect characteristic of the DVD format sometimes makes the VFX seem like they were “pasted” onto the screen, and as a result, I sometimes felt detached from the experience. It is a small qualm and is certainly no gamebreaker.
As for the special features, they are nothing worth writing home about. We get the requisite deleted scenes, extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes look (the strongest of the bunch), and an interesting, albeit brief look at the special effects. The VFX featurette, however, is accompanied by no commentary and moves at such a brisk pace that it is sometimes difficult to grasp what is transpiring on screen. The behind the scenes look is great, though, and shows what went into creating the magic in front of the camera. The cast and crew seem to have had a great time making this film, as the rapport is both comical and extremely informative.
Overall, the film itself is really with a few moments of absolute brilliance and is a very enjoyable watch. If you are a lover of this genre, Troll Hunter is an absolute must-buy. Even if you’re still on the fence when it comes to found footage films, give this one a chance, it may change your mind.
Troll Hunter is a film with a few moments of absolute brilliance and a film that you must check out, at least give it a chance.