In a world of remakes, sequels, regurgitated and derivative stories, it’s refreshing to encounter TrollHunter (Trolljegeren), a Norwegian comedy/fantasy/horror film that’s playing for a very limited time at the Dundee Theatre. My suggestion: See it before it blows out of town, because it’s the kind of film that you don’t get to see every day.
Written and directed by Andre Ovredal (with writing contributions made by Havard S. Johansen), the film begins with a bit of an explanation: “On Oct. 13, 2008, Filmkameratene A/S received an anonymous package with two hard discs containing 283 minutes of filmed material.” It continues, telling us that what we are about to see – all 90 minutes of it – is a chronologically arranged rough cut of what was found on that film. At this point, you’re probably thinking “oh brother, one of THESE films again. Blair Witch revisited.” Although the way that TrollHunter is presented isn’t particularly innovative – it’s filmed in a hand-held, guerilla, shaky cam way; there’s even night vision – it’s the subject matter that proves unique.
The premise: Three students at Volda College – Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), the reporter; Johanna (Johanna Morck), the boom mike operator; and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), the cameraman – are working on a project. They are investigating a bear attack, and while interviewing some officially sanctioned bear hunters, they shift their attention to a mysterious “poacher.” The students begin following this man, Hans (Otto Jespersen), who just happens to be hunting something that’s much bigger than a bear. It is, as if you couldn’t tell from the title of the film, a troll. A Tosserlad to be exact. Or was it a Ringlefinch? A Rimelosser? Definitely not a Jotnar. Whatever it was, the top of its head came close to the top of the tree line, it had three heads, a tail, and didn’t like being bothered. Don’t believe that trolls exist? Well, according to the people at Filmkameratene A/S, they spent one year trying to authenticate the footage, and they decided that it was authentic. But let yourself be the judge. (It’s not, but it’s sure fun to believe that it is.)
Trolls abound in Scandinavian (Norwegians, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, and Icelanders) folklore. For instance, I have a rather thick book called Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales, and those trolls show up on a pretty regular basis. But don’t think that you have to be Scandinavian to appreciate this film. After all, unless you grew up in a bomb shelter without human contact, you should know the Norwegian story about the three billy-goats who went into the hills to get fat. Remember, the three goats who go clacking over the bridge and that “big, ugly troll, with eyes as big as saucers and a nose as long as a rake-handle” gets all up in their faces about it? Sure you do. Or you might even know the story Peer Gynt, which was turned into a five-act play by Henrik Ibsen and has accompanying music by Edward Grieg. His best known piece of music is In the Hall of the Mountain King, which just happens to have trolls, gnomes and goblins in attendance. No one should be completely ignorant of troll lore, and whatever you don’t know, you will learn. For instance, we discover that: Trolls eat rocks and charcoal. They stink. There are two kinds of trolls: Mountain and Woodland. And they are “allergic” to sun, can smell the blood of a Christian, and can live thousands of years. In this film, they have territories and when they move out of those areas, the T.S.S. or Troll Security Service must take action. Serious action.
I saw TrollHunter, the other day, and I’m still thinking about it; still chuckling about it. It’s a flick that has a lot to offer. Like travelogues? Well, you get to see a lot of absolutely breath-taking scenery. (I’m already planning my Norway trip.) You follow the subjects as they drive around sparkling blue lakes with cloud-topped mountains, venture into evergreen filled woodlands, and end up in the snowy and rather barren Jotunheim. (For those who know their Norse mythology, this place should be inhabited by Frost Giants). For horror lovers, there are some good moments of peril when the trolls attack. And if you like to be grossed out, for some reason, the trolls leave behind slime. If you like comedy, you will find that, too. During one of the best scenes in the film, an exasperated Jespersen dons armor and a helmet that looks like the one worn by the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, using a syringe as big as his arm, attempts to get blood from a troll who lives under a bridge. The outcome isn’t pretty. Another hilarious scene takes place toward the end and involves a gigantic troll, Hans, his Mad Maxed out Range Rover, and some blaring Christian tunes. I’m pretty shallow, so I’ll also admit that Thomas was damn cute. I’d see it again for him. The trolls – well, they made me nostalgic for my Jim Henson-filled youth. Sadly, CGI has replaced puppets and animatronics. Finally, if you like mythology and fairy tales, you will probably dig the fact that rather than trotting out the tired old vampires, werewolves and zombies, Ovredal gave us something new. He has made a very Norwegian film, drawing upon their mythology, that’s also accessible to anyone. (The more you know the mythology, the more you will get out of the film.)
Rather than waiting for the damn Hollywood remake, go out and support this film and the Dundee for making it available to us. Because as far as I know, it’s been shown mainly on the festival circuit – internationally in Amsterdam and Edinburgh; domestically in Nashville, San Francisco, Boston, and, of course, in Park City, Utah, at Sundance. If you enjoy it, you can buy it when it comes out on DVD in Aug. 23.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars