thu 22/02/2024

Troll Hunter | reviews, news & interviews

Troll Hunter

Troll Hunter

Not that funny or scary, but a convincingly weird take on Norwegian folklore

'Who's afraid of trolls?' Outsize Norwegian fluffy toy heading your way in 'Troll Hunter'

The Blair Witch Project’s found-footage horror formula finds an unlikely new ingredient in this Norwegian phenomenon. The monsters disturbed in the woods by an amateur film crew this time are trolls, fairy-tale staples corralled by a top-secret branch of the government’s Wildlife Board, the Troll Security Service, and more particularly by hangdog chief troll hunter Hans (top Norwegian comic Otto Jespersen). “Who’s afraid of trolls?” someone asks.

The implicit, bone-dry humour ensures you won’t be. But neither are you likely to forget this peculiar tale.

Hans is the initial quarry of the student film crew led by boyishly eager Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud, pictured below): a mysterious bear hunter, it seems, himself trailing the culprits behind a spate of vanishing wildlife. Finally Hans, tiring of these pesky kids and his job, lets them film him at work, hoping their exposé will bring it to an end. The Wildlife Board’s dogged bureaucracy, with their endless Slayed Troll Forms to fill in, does him in when the trolls can’t. He leads the crew into the cloudy mountain interior of western Norway, where the creatures have excavated secret lairs from which, like confused polar bears, they’re now wandering towards humanity.  

TJ stills 09Debuting writer-director Andre Ovredal’s inspiration was the treasury of troll tales read to him as a child. The ridiculous bulbous noses of these lumbering giants are representations every Norwegian will be familiar with, not least from the tourist-trap shops that sell ultra-cute versions. An unmistakably phallic-nosed, flatulent tribe make the humour explicit. It would be more interesting to try and take them seriously - to awake a particularly Norwegian horror for the modern world. A troll who lurks under a bridge does invoke childhood nightmares of the Billy Goats Gruff (originally a Norwegian tale). A recent Neil Gaiman short story, Troll Bridge, showed how this could be usefully darkened. Their blind sniffing in the film for “the blood of a Christian man”, complicated first by secret residues of faith in one cameraman, then his replacement by a Muslim woman, is one new twist.

Ovredal’s sympathy for his creations is shown in a riff on Robert Shaw’s USS Indianapolis speech in Jaws, as Hans gruffly recalls a sort of troll genocide he had to perform, as the pest exterminator he essentially is. Most of the trolls, though CGI-created, look like lumpy anachronisms: Jim Henson Muppet monsters, stop-motion animated by Ray Harryhausen. The rabid, giant Mountain King confronted at the end, though, achieves a sort of sickened, sympathetic majesty.

Troll Hunter works best as a spoof Norwegian drive-in movie (except such things don’t exist). Ovredal operated on the principle that the more seriously his characters took things, the funnier they’d be, though that humour doesn’t wholly travel from the mordant land of the midnight sun, where his film has broken box-office records and is discussed as a cultural landmark, with the Hollywood remake already planned. Not that funny or scary, the sheer weird conviction of the enterprise carries it through. No doubt for very good reason, you’ve never seen anything like it.

Watch the trailer to Troll Hunter

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