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Troll Hunter

May 25, 2011

Trollhunter (2010 Norwegian release: Trolljegeren)

By John Leavengood

MY CALL:  Good special effects, a dash of realistic biology and an interesting story make Trollhunter that which I always strive to find: something entertaining and unlike anything else I’ve seen.  Clutch writing makes the characters as interesting as the monsters—a task which I feel is generally difficult.  All eight reviews on Amazon were 5/5 stars!  I couldn’t agree more with the rating.  This film gets a solid, John-approved “A”.  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCHRare Exports and Thale.  Both are also Norwegian folklore-themed movies.  Rare Exports was reviewed here:

 The movie opens with a mood-setting disclaimer that it was formed by chronologically assembling footage left behind by an anti-Mythbusters documentary film crew from the University of Volda.  How very Norse-Blair Witch Project meets Cloverfield of them.  The camerawork has all of the appeal of Cloverfield without the headache-inducing shakiness (except when briefly appropriate, for example, running from a troll!).

This film follows a group of student filmmakers as they follow Hans.  Originally suspected of being a bear poacher, Hans is actually a somewhat bitter, poorly paid government employee charged with “troll management”.  This sounds slapstick-ridiculous, but I swear it is delivered with a straight face.  Hans is charged with tracking and killing trolls that have wandered from their government-delineated territory—like a secret wildlife preserve.  He hopes that filming these creatures and informing the public could improve future troll management strategies…that, and he’s clearly sick of the secrecy and, perhaps, being under-appreciated.

Like a teenager on his first hunting trip with dad, they follow Hans’ instructions and wash their armpits and crotch thoroughly before applying “troll scent” which, by their reactions, likely smells like a melted corpse.  Hans is armed with an ultraviolet light cannon as his primary firearm.  One last piece of advice: don’t be a Christian.  Evidently trolls hate Christians.  Muslims, on the other hand, should be okay.

The depictions of the trolls stayed in the true spirit of classic folklore.  But still there was a subtle attempt to explain a bit about troll biology.  As a biologist, I found this charming.  The extra heads (accessory organs, really) that some trolls develop throughout their life cycle assist them in peacocking to impress females and to intimidate other trolls.  There are also two species (groups), each with various subspecies (types), of trolls.  In as detailed a manner as one could expect from a movie like this, they even explain why trolls turn to stone when exposed to ultraviolet light (and why some explode instead).  Troll detection, tracking, various baiting techniques, gestation periods, intelligence, and the simple fact that they are mammals are all addressed, even if only briefly.

The behavior and variety of the trolls they encounter make this film feel like Where the Wild Things Are for fanboys.  There are several different troll scenes and the types of trolls differ as much as the circumstances of their encounter.  While the effects are not amazing, they are every bit as good as they need to be to maintain the credibility of a world in which trolls exist and, more importantly, to keep us entertained.  I never felt that the effects “could have been better”.  If you like monster movies then this is a MUST SEE for you!

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