Director: André Øvredal
Stars: Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Nærum
Plot: A group of students discover that a series of mysterious bear killings are in fact the work of a large troll, whose hunter they unexpectedly encounter.
You can probably count how many Norwegian films you’ve seen on one finger, if that. Norway’s more cinematically ambitious neighbour Sweden leads the way as the go-to Scandinavian country if you fancy two hours in the company of vampires or an obsessive computer hacker. But there’s more to the land of Edvard Grieg and A-Ha than just beautiful mountains and fjords. Norway has a low-key yet prolific movie business that has flirted with Hollywood on only one significant occasion – when Insomnia (1997) was re-made in 2002 with Al Pacino in the lead role.
Footage is found of three students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck) and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), who are making a documentary about bear hunter Hans (Jespersen). After staking out his trailer, they eventually have the opportunity to follow him in their car through the deep forests of western Norway. As Hans disappears into the woods, the trio apprehensively trawl after him, only to be met by the hunter himself running away from a loud noise, which sounds much too loud to be a bear. A giant monster emerges from the trees – as Hans shouts “Troll!” the group retreat as fast as they can back to the road. The students find their car overturned and smashed beyond repair – Hans then offers them a ride in his Land Rover and explains that he is actually a troll hunter, using the cover of dead bears to hide his tracks.
The next day, Hans asks his newly found friends whether they believe in God. The reason being that trolls apparently have a taste for Christian blood. When they confirm that none of them do, Hans urges the three to rub themselves in troll scent so that they are undetectable by the blood-thirsty creatures. He brings out his flash-gun – a powerful weapon that emits UV-rays, turning trolls into stone, or in more extreme cases, makes them explode. Initially sceptical about Hans and his story, Kalle, Johanna and Thomas are stunned when Hans manages to coax a massive three-headed troll out into a clearing and zap it, turning it to stone. The hunter then reveals that he is not working in isolation – he is actually tracking down and killing trolls that wander out of their designated ‘territory’ on behalf of the Troll Security Service (TSS), a hush-hush government agency. As the four continue the hunt for more trolls, their encounters become increasingly fraught with danger – but will we find out what could possibly have happened to them?
Troll Hunter is essentially The Blair Witch Project (1999) meets Cloverfield (2008) and Monsters (2010) with a large helping of Lord of the Rings. In other words, it’s mostly unoriginal. The only unique aspects of the film are the Norwegian setting and the combination of hunter and novice students as the sole protagonists. There are so many ‘found footage’ films these days, that they tend to blend into each other, although the sight of trolls turning to stone will prove to be the only memorable image to be taken here. There is only so much running through trees or admiring the beautiful scenery we can do before crying out for a decent storyline to really get our teeth into – but sadly there is little to go on. You really get the sense that director André Øvredal is desperate to show the wild side of Norway in every shot, using obvious panning techniques to get in panoramic views which would be fine in a tourist video – or perhaps that’s the point.
With a relatively small budget of £2.1 million, the producers appear to have wasted a great deal of this on the poor CGI. While the trolls look spectacular in the dark, when they are exposed in the sunlight they appear to have been hastily sketched, although a major stand-off with a very large beast towards the end has some nice touches. The acting is hardly worth writing home about, but there are a few funny moments involving the eccentric Hans as he explains his very unusual job to the puzzled students. On the dramatic side, you don’t need to have a great deal of training to look shocked/tense and/or look up for 100 minutes or so – and it shows. Just like Blair Witch, don’t expect any of the cast to plough a successful international film career on the back of this – however, it’s a case of a job done but few resultant awards.
Troll Hunter has plenty of promise, but fails to deliver on an interesting trailer packed with all the best moments. If you fancy going to Norway on holiday anytime soon, then you’ll enjoy the scenery – otherwise it’s just another take on a tired sub-genre.