There’s nothing more appealing than a horror steeped with folklore that manages to question our sanity. This is precisely what foreign-based fantasies like Norwegian writer-director André Øvredal’s TrollHunter achieve for the non-Nordic audience out there, desperate for mysteries such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster to have a touch of authenticity about them.
Students discover that government officials have been less than honest about recent human disappearances and supposed bear killings, and track down the whereabouts of a mysterious troll hunter who has been tasked with keeping the various troll populations in the scenic Norwegian fjords under control and out of public sight. The anxious film crew are allowed to follow trolljegeren Hans (Otto Jespersen) on his quest and learn about magical beings far more dangerous than your average bear lurking in the woods.
To call Øvredal’s latest mockumentary yet another Blair Witch 2011 incarnation may have an ounce of truth to it -– many horrors since are choosing to go down the ‘captured on camera/CCTV’ root to up the thrills, like the Paranormal Activity series. But what makes TrollHunter different is its chameleon nature, moving from pseudo-documentary to action adventure, all with a stoic comedic heart beating at its core and a huge amount of charm and wonderment to boot. It’s like an adult bedtime story with a modest hero at its helm. It also mixes up ‘documented’ camera footage with dreamlike landscapes.
Øvredal also offers a variety of troll species in the film, like some kind of Attenborough nature programme, which in turn, gives not only each troll group a believable personality, but also the film itself. The scenes with the cave-dwelling ‘Honey Monsters’ for instance create a riveting and terrifyingly disorientating moment in the film – like a bunch of nature explorers stumbling on hostile territory.
As with all nature programmes, there are a few lagging moments that follow a nice build-up of tension and potential end activity. But these are few and far between as the majority of the film is like one eccentric science project with a more bizarre collection of humans involved in troll control than beasts.
Some of the most striking and equally outlandish scenes come at the end of the film with the daddy of all trolls making his presence known in some of the hairiest fantasy chase scenes witnessed in the genre. Øvredal does not forget to place his tongue firmly in his cheek either, particularly at this point, with his own ridicule of religion very much apparent throughout in not only provoking but, neutralising the question of faith.
Finding something different to rattle the fantasy appetite is a tall feat. But Øvredal’s TrollHunter delivers an earnest fantasy adventure bathed in Nordic spirit and folklore that captures the heart, as well as the imagination.