15 September 2011
I’m just sick of it. I’ve had it up to here with these “found footage” films. It’s a gimmick that grows tired faster than I can type this sentence. And I can type fast.
What could have easily been a cult-in-the-making, Troll Hunter is buried under the obligation to look and feel real. This verisimilitude creates an atmosphere where viewers are forced to appreciate the shaky camera, the docu-style narrative and the inconsistent dramatic pull. It forces the viewers to place themselves behind another fourth wall, so to speak. Not only are we supposed to be entertained, we are also asked to be objects of an historical / sociological / scientific / psychological (delete as necessary) experiment. We are merely reflecting on a supposed fact, when in fact what happens on the screen is unadulterated fun. It’s a shame, because Troll Hunter could easily have been one of the best genre films of the last few years. Alas, it falls incredibly short.
The footage of three film students (one invisible cameraman, one near-silent girl with a boom mike, and one interviewer boy) is found in the woods (seriously?). Upon close inspection by the authorities, it is found to be real. The footage is that of these 3 film students who are after a mysterious unofficial bear hunter. After relentlessly following his scratched and battered Land Rover around rainy, gorgeous Norwegian countryside, they come across a troll in the dark, dense woods. Soon Hans, the eponymous troll hunter, agrees to have them follow him maintaining the troll population of Norway in the name of the faceless Government.
What’s not to like? With the driest of humour (a stark contrast to the rain-drenched countryside) the plot thickens as the faceless government agency may be hiding something. Hans, played by Otto Jespersen, is a tough son-of-a-bitch, hell-bent on protecting these creatures. He doesn’t bat an eyelid when he turns a three-headed giant into stone, but gets teary-eyed when he recalls the troll massacre to which he was an instrument of the Government.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Troll Hunter is the unfortunate timing of its release. Andres Breivik’s horrific act is still fresh in our minds and the fact that the trolls are fond of killing Christians and it is up to the troll hunter to chase these creatures in the countryside … well, I think you can make the connection.
Of course the film is not trying to make a political statement (and certainly not from that angle). It is an incredibly fun story, with credible special effects and empathetic characters. It’s a shame, then, that it is all ruined by the “found footage” bookmarks. This is not only disappointing, but infuriating. If this were told as a “regular” (for want of a better word) film, I would have been praising it to high heavens. But, no. Sadly, somebody had a brain fart during the conception of this idea. And its stink still lingers.