There’s been a lot of good horror creeping out of Scandinavia recently. Some of it has hit the mainstream with a vengeance, such as the Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In, and some of it has stayed within the genre audience, like the excellent Norwegian slasher Cold Prey. Last Christmas, the very entertaining Finnish horror comedy Rare Exports failed to cross over. How will Troll Hunter fare?
A student documentary crew is trailing a mysterious poacher named Hans. When they finally track him down to a forest, there are strange lights and crashing noises before he sprints out of the trees shouting “Troll!” He’s a troll hunter for the Norwegian government, and he agrees to let the three youngsters film him.
Troll Hunter is a wonderfully odd mix of genres. It’s a monster movie on a budget, and it’s also a found footage horror movie. What makes it fresh is its mockumentary style, reminiscent of Christopher Guest’s comedies (Spinal Tap, Best in Show). Hans is fed up of doing an incredibly dangerous and exhausting job all by himself. There are a wealth of wonderful little bureaucratic moments, such as the extensive form Hans has to fill out after killing a troll, and the amiable Polish bloke who delivers dead bears to account for missing tourists that the trolls have eaten.
As we discussed with horror guru Kim Newman, found footage does seem to be a horror trend that has run its course. However, Troll Hunter is definitely helped by its sense of humour rather than taking itself too seriously. The special effects are obviously done with a relatively small amount of money but they are decent enough and add to the film’s offbeat charm. Meanwhile the unfamiliar cast help the film’s mockumentary aesthetic, with Otto Jespersen especially strong as Hans, and good turns from Glenn Erland Tosterud and Johanna Mørck as the presenter and sound girl respectively.
There are occasional missteps as the filmmakers try to balance the humour with reality. It’s good that the film doesn’t go for a completely comedic approach but the consequences the characters face for following Hans are sometimes a bit jarring. But this is a witty new spin on the tired found-footage sub-genre that has some laughs, some decent scares, and a great character in the shape of tired, grizzled troll hunter Hans.
Verdict: Funny and innovative, Troll Hunter is worth hunting down.