Today: April 17, 2024

Troll Hunter

Aping the now overly-familiar, found footage-style of movies like Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter is a mockumentary supposedly compiled from the raw footage shot by a bunch of missing film students.

One of the more amusing and
frustrating conversations I had at this year’s Edinburgh International Film
Festival was an argument I found myself drawn into in the cinema bar with a group
of American students (who else?) who were pontificating about the virulent
atheist agenda of Norway’s Troll Hunter
and Europe’s inherent anti-Christian bias.

Aping the now
overly-familiar, found footage-style of movies like Cannibal Holocaust and The
Blair Witch Project
, Troll Hunter
is a mockumentary supposedly compiled from the raw footage shot by a bunch of
missing film students. While
making a documentary about bear hunters, they become obsessed with interviewing
a mysterious, reclusive figure who drives around in a battle-scarred armoured
land rover and whom the other hunters believe is a notorious poacher. When the poacher, Hans (Norwegian
comedian Otto Jespersen) refuses to
speak to them, they chase after him, determined to film him in the act.

Following him into a dark,
isolated forest in the middle of the night, they see weird flashing lights,
hear unearthly roars and feel the ground shake beneath them. Suddenly Hans burst from the
undergrowth and drags them to the relative safety of his truck as a huge,
barely-glimpsed monster flips over their car and proceeds to eat the
tyres. Hans it transpires is no
run-of-the-mill poacher; he’s the titular Troll
, employed by the Norwegian government to cull the mythical monsters
of Scandinavian whose very existence has been kept from the public. Grizzled and world-weary, Hans
reluctantly agrees to allow the film crew to follow him as he traps the giant
beasties roaming the countryside.

Smart, funny and engaging, Troll Hunter draws affectionately upon
Scandinavian legends and fairy tales (sunlight turns trolls to stone, they live
under bridges and eat Christians) incorporating them and Norway’s everyday
landscape (apparently cross-country electricity lines are used to corral the
critters on reservations) into the government cover-up at the heart of the
film. Hans is no ordinary
hero. He’s an overweight,
middle-aged civil servant, happiest when he’s grumbling about the poor pay and
benefits his job entails, spending as much time battling with red tape (how
many forms?) and bureaucracy in the shape Knut
’s twitchy government
inspector as he does battling trolls.

While the whole ‘found
footage’ gimmick has been done to death (nausea-inducing shaky cinema verite
shooting, clueless film crew, soupy green night-vision, complete lack of
rubber-necking public), here it works to the film’s advantage, upping the
tension and allowing only the briefest of glimpses of the rough-CGI monsters
who are far scarier than the ugly, spiky-haired dolls your little sister or
ex-girlfriend probably collected.
The conceit allows the audience to get right into the middle of the
sweaty-palmed action as the taciturn Hans and the increasingly hysterical film
crew are attacked by slavering, rampaging trolls. At 103 minutes, it’s at least 20 minutes too long, it
suffers from the same abrupt ending as so many of its peers and there are far
too many shots of the beautiful Nordic countryside but Troll Hunter’s desert-dry humour, its sense of fun and the best,
cheap CGI this side of 2010’s Monsters
more than make up for it’s shortcomings.

And, what caused the ire of
our colonial cousins from across the pond who I mentioned at the top of the
review? At one point the hunter
asks the film crew if any of them are Christians as, true to the myths, trolls
can “smell the blood of a Christian man.”
I’m not letting any cats out of the bag by revealing that the obviously
Born Again students were distressed when one of the film crew had to be
replaced by a pretty Muslim student.

Smart, sardonically funny,
inventive and original, Troll Hunter
will make you think twice about hiking in Scandinavia.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email:

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