The reconfigured contents of two hard drives recovered from the wilds of Western Norway, a year spent investigating. The conclusion: the contents are real. Well of course they would say that. What we want to know is – are the contents entertaining? Take a trip into the woods with Geek Chocolate and find out…
Released in late 2010 in its native country before the festival circuit and international release, this is not the outright horror of the Spanish chillers of recent years, nor fellow Scandanavian release Let The Right One In, but this unique Nordic voice has a charm and style of its own, and a large part of that is down to the rugged beauty of the mountains, forests and fjords on display, a background in contrast to the urban clutter that dominates modern cinema.
Confronting a man he believes to be a bear poacher, interviewer Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is rebuffed, but with colleagues Johanna (Johanna Mørck) on sound and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) on camera, pursues him regardless. Tracking the man into a forest late at night, they find he is actually hunting a much larger game: escaped trolls. Luring them with concrete and charcoal, which they find irresistible, he then destroys them with powerful blasts of ultraviolet light, which, depending on the age of the troll, can either turn them to stone or cause them to explode.
His true purpose revealed, the man, Hans (Otto Jespersen), reveals that the Norwegian government are using powerful electrified fences to contain the trolls away from populated areas. With breaches occurring more regularly, they have appointed operatives such as Hans to destroy the escapees, but he is more concerned about why they have begun to expand their territory, and how they are escaping the barriers.
While the “found footage” conceit has been done many times in the horror genre – The Blair Witch Project and [REC] being two obvious examples – here the focus is on the people rather than the story, which means the rough documentary doesn’t feel contrived. The performances are relaxed and convincing, and the frequent humour makes the characters more likeable than their counterparts who investigated the Black Hills, who certainly never encountered a Polish trapper arguing the difference between Scandinavian and Croatian bears.
The pace is set by the editing, the isolation of the deep forests at night, lonely bridges on country lanes beneath which the trolls conceal themselves. With the camera frequently placed in the back of a car, staring out the window at the rolling scenery, it often feels as though the viewer is a passenger sharing the journey with the filmmakers.
The trolls themselves, portrayed in folklore as being old, slow and dim-witted, are represented in that manner here, as much a source of humour as fear. As good as the effects are, it is the sound of the trolls that is convincing, often heard from offscreen, deep rumblings and bellows carried on the cold wind, announcing the approach of Tosserlads and Ringlefinches.
Yet for a film as unassuming and apparently frivolous as Troll Hunter, there are swipes at authority and bureaucracy in the form-filling Hans has to undertake every time he completes a mission for Troll Security Services, the supercilious government official he must answer to, and the indifference of the power station workers when questioned about the breaches in the power lines.
After Blair Witch and Cloverfield, there is a belief that there is only one way a film like this can end, but Troll Hunter manages to surprise with a scene inserted after the inevitable dropped camera, providing one of the biggest laughs in the film. For anyone who ever played in the woods in the dark and pretended there was something out there with them, this is a film to make you feel the same way. And you’ll never look at overhead power lines the same way again.