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New Review: Trollhunter

TrollHunter (or, Trolljegeren if you’re nasty) may feel at first glance as if it’s riding the wave of the found footage movies that seem to land on DVD shelves or in movie theaters every six minutes or so.  Do not be fooled – this is a troll of a different color.

The title of the film is all you need to know of the plot.  Three college students take their camera and boom microphone into the wilds of Norway to track poachers in the area.  After following a mysterious bearded man, they discover that he is no poacher after all, but a man working for a secret government organization to hunt and kill trolls if they wander out of their natural borders and start causing havoc amongst the population.  And by havoc, I mean eating the population in question.

The college kids, along with the audience, follow the Trollhunter as he squares off against them with only his trusty UV ray gun and “troll stink,” his concoction which allows him to mask his scent using their own smell against them.  The surefire way to kill a troll is to simulate sunlight, resulting in one of two endings for the mythical beastie – explosion (messy) and calcification (just plain cool).  The other hitch is that trolls can apparently smell Christianity, making believers in the Christian faith particularly yummy to trolls of all stripes.

We do get peeks at three or four different types of trolls, and the first encounter is particularly fun as we, along with the camera crew, get our first glimpses of these fantastical characters made real.  We’re also treated with an actual troll under a bridge, and another so large it dwarfs all others before it. 

The real wonder of this film is its ridiculous subject matter and the absolute seriousness with which it treats the images on the screen.  While not a particular fan of trolls and their lore, seeing them come to life on the screen was an unexpected treat and one that I heartily recommend.  Sure, the CGI trolls seem like CGI trolls sometimes, but there are shots that look totally convincing and it brings a smile to the face.  The entire experience made me pine for the days when people took monster movies a bit more seriously, instead of the tongue-in-cheek raping of the creature feature prevalent on SyFy Channel movies or numerous direct-to-video films.  Not that Trollhunter isn’t a little slyly funny, but it doesn’t wink at the audience, either.

It’s hard to judge the acting in the film in its native Norwegian, though it seems fine, and the movie is occasionally weighed down by its vérité conceit which makes some of the second act feel a bit plodding.  The real stars of the movie are the delightful trolls, and writer-director Andre Ovredal knows which side his mythic bread is buttered on, giving us some very fun moments with these legendary creatures. 

Trollhunter hits DVD and Blu-ray soon enough, but if you can still catch this one on the festival circuit, do so.  It may be uneven, but I can guarantee you’ve never seen trolls like these outside of children’s storybooks, and, for that, you owe it a look.

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