Trollhunter Review

The so-called found footage sub-genre seems to have been a reasonably reliable money spinner in recent years and whilst films using this technique often receive a critical kicking and proclamations regarding its death seem more and more common with each passing film, the approach is showing no signs of going way. With the exception of those films that attempt to try something new and even subversive with the structural conceit, see the widely misunderstood The Last Exorcism for instance, too often filmmakers are happy to rely on this cheap (quite literally) aesthetic and to do little else than insert enough supposedly ‘spooky’ moments and jump scares to coax an audience into the theatres and back for more, see the absurdly over-praised Paranormal Activity.

TrollHunter, for all its ties to this approach, feels in many ways like a new breed, a film that is not simply reliant on this structural and technical approach to provide the film with drive and a hook, the technique serves the story that the filmmakers are attempting to tell. As our hapless reporters begin investigating bear poaching in the wilds of Norway, stumbling across the titular TrollHunter in the process, we are thrust into the world with them, they provide our entry point into a mythology and a new world. It is a very traditional technique that has been common in films for decades, a central character enters a world that is alien and strange but as they discover it we discover it with them, they open the door and we walk through together.

In a film about trolls that relies on a certain level of buying into from an audience this is key and the way in which André Øvredal uses the technical constraints of the found footage approach make this immersion all the more effective and complete. Most importantly the approach adds up, there are no moments where we are left wondering why the characters are filming something or indeed not filming something, the conceit makes sense. Troll Hunter also hits an almost perfect tonal pitch with a sensitive blend of drama and comedy in which one never doubts the life and death consequences inherent in hunting trolls but also never forgets the obvious absurdity of the very idea. The film makes one certain for the runtime of the film that trolls are real but it also acknowledges that this very idea is, of course, ridiculous. It’s a tricky balancing act but it’s one that is handled so well here it’s very deserving of praise.

There are rough edges in TrollHunter though, the government operative heavily involved in controlling the troll problem is unbelievably inept at preventing this small group of filmmakers from filming some particularly sensitive footage and the lack of any other government types turning up to interfere comes across like an oversight rather than a logical piece of storytelling. One can’t help wondering if it’s a choice perhaps motivated by a low-budget and keeping the cast minimal rather than an entirely voluntary decision on the part of the scriptwriters.

The budget of Troll Hunter is remarkably low for all that is achieved in the film and other than a couple of moments, the aforementioned being the only really significant one, financial considerations are never obvious on screen. This is most notable in the special effects which are remarkable regardless of the budget, satisfyingly integrated into the film rather than obvious additions that distract or amaze an audience almost too much as to cause a disconnect. With Monsters last year and Troll Hunter this it appears that young and independent filmmakers are finding new and original ways to use special effects as a part of the wide toolbox on offer to the modern filmmaker. It’s certainly very pleasing to see films such as Troll Hunter that are not simply reliant on the spectacle but use special effects within the context of an entertaining and absorbing story.

This review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.