The Norwegian film Trollhunter is Super 8 with subtitles and a shoestring budget that wouldn’t pay for Mr. Spielberg’s Perrier. Based on the conceit that in 2008, 238 minutes of film arrived anonymously at a film studio in Oslo containing historic footage of a hunting party that encounters a fabled troll, the movie declares that after two years of investigation it was deemed authentic. Trollhunter, directed by André Øvredal, purports to be the edited version. The people in the footage were never found. The search goes on.
Conceived in the verité style of The Blair Witch Project—documentary realism spiked with fictional tension—and set among the treacherous mountainous curves above the mysterious fjords of Norway, the film is steeped in rain and fog as it follows three college kids with an 8 mm. handheld camera. They think they are following a bear poacher who resists all attempts to be interviewed, but when one of the boys is attacked and bitten in the dark, the weird man comes to the rescue with a tetanus shot. He works for the Troll Secret Service, a government agency dedicated to killing trolls and hiding their existence from the public. These agents are required to fill out a Slayed Troll Form listing the location and gender of each dead troll, as well as the cause of death. I mean, where do they think up this stuff? I guess the nights are long in Norway.
Sometimes the screen turns green (“troll piss” is the explanation). Sometimes the troll hunter just babbles endlessly, telling us more than we ever wanted to know. From my childhood fairy tales, I always thought they were elflike people who wore real clothes and lived under the drawbridge. Turns out they are 1,200 years old, have three heads, and are very stupid. Anyone with an ambition to track trolls must first smear himself with “controlled troll stench.” And for godsake, why? The troll doesn’t actually do anything. It just growls and snarls and crunches trees beneath its feet, leaving footprints the size of locomotives. The dialogue is often hilarious, and I’m still wondering if the laughs are inadvertent. “Keep your distance!” warns the troll hunter. “I’m about to toss out some Christian man’s blood!” When they come across a pile of timber beams in the middle of a river, he says “This bridge was smashed by a wading troll that bumped his head.” Like the folks who dreamed up lycanthropy, the Trollhunter writers either have an abundance of imagination or they’ve been smoking a controlled substance.
Besides being immortalized in a movie this bad, a troll’s biggest problem is exposure to the sun. The young ones can’t convert Vitamin D from sunlight into calcium, so they explode. The old ones turn to stone. The college kids finally find a troll, but it has rabies. Before it gets them, they stop it in its tracks with a recording of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The troll goes understandably mad. Explains one lab technician: “I wish they didn’t have to experience such pain.”
But what about the audience?
Running time 90 minutes
Written and directed by André Øvredal
Starring Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Nærum