May 5, 2011

SFIFF54: "The Troll Hunter" Not Just a Fairy Tale

9:32 AM

Trolls only exist in fairy tales. Or do they?

Norwegian Writer and Director André Øvredal brings us The Troll Hunter, a mockumentary told from the perspective of college students Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), and Johanna (Johanna Mørckwho). The students are investigating a string of strange bear killings and following the story, the students interview bear hunters who angrily claim that there is an unlicensed hunter, a "poacher", getting to the bears before they can.

The students decide to start following the poacher only to find that he has no interest in speaking to them. They persist and continuously follow the poacher until finally following him in to the dark woods and have a brush with some kind of creature. Between Thomas being bitten and the poacher telling "TROLL!" their interest and persistence only grow and the poacher finally gives in to being filmed.

It's then that we find out that there are no bears causing a ruckus, it’s the trolls. And Hans is no poacher, he's a troll hunter. Hans (Otto Jespersen) is part of the secret Troll Security Service hired and hidden by the government to keep the troll situation under control. When the students ask why he finally gave in to being filmed, Hans cites the long hours, lack of nuisance compensation, and so on.

The trolls are large, loud and intimidating but just like in the fairy tale they're also smelly, dim-witted, large-nosed, sometimes hairy and always ugly. Despite being in CGI, the trolls are still very believable, menacing and blend in to the surroundings of the film.

Much of the folklore about trolls also applies in the film: trolls turn to stone or explode in the sunlight (or when exposed to a UV ray light), they hide under bridges, goats are used as bait, and things are hilariously literal as trolls do indeed smell the blood of Christian men. There are some exceptions however. When Thomas jokingly asks Hans what happens if they challenge the troll to an eating contest however, Hans deadpans “Not everything matches fairy tales”.

The film even touches on the morality of killing trolls. When the students hail Hans as a hero he immediately refuses the title and painfully recounts a story about how a development project was planned in a troll territory and he was ordered to kill all the trolls, including the women and children.

The cinematic style of The Troll Hunter will no doubt brings to mind several other mockumentaries and creature movies from the past few decades: Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Jurassic Park just to name a few. Initially this style made me a bit dubious about the film as audiences have been bombarded with the style as of late, but I was pleasantly proved wrong.

The film is suspenseful, charming and is a fun, fresh spin on fairy tale monsters. Of the movies I viewed, it was definitely my favorite film of SFIFF54.

Here's the preview but I strongly recommended skipping it if you plan on seeing the film. It's worth not knowing some of the details that get revealed in the trailer.

Fun facts from the Director Q&A for The Troll Hunter:

  • Most of the troll sounds was done by one man.
  • The Director has never seen Troll 2 or Best Worst Movie.
  • The Troll Hunter is described as “Blair Witch meets Jurassic Park” in the SFIFF54 publications. The Director noted that Jurassic Park was an influence, but the biggest influence for the film is a Belgian film called Man Bites Dog.
  • Despite playing a somewhat quiet, serious character, Otto Jespersen who plays the troll hunter is a famous comedian in Norway. The Director also noted that in fact Otto is quite talkative.

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