This film ranks right up there with fellow Scandanavian film Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In). They’re both genre-changing films for completely different reasons. The Troll Hunter is a fun and suspenseful thrill-ride through picturesque Norwegian mountains and forests.
Hans (Otto Jespersen) is the only hunter of his kind in Norway. Often mistaken as bear poacher, he’s a big man with a gruff personality. It doesn’t help that he stinks. In fact everything stinks about him from his car to his caravan he tows around and lives in. He may not be personable but he knows his trade. He’s the titular hero of the story, he’s the troll hunter.
Trolls aren’t monsters but mindless animals. Hans is a respectful hunter, one that understands hunting isn’t killing but management of a natural resource. His superiors don’t always agree though. The government has a long-standing policy on trolls. When a Troll is doing damage to property or livestock, Hans is sent in to neutralize. A team is sent in afterwards to clean up, usually blaming an errant bear that has been conveniently shot by a poacher.
Three investigative journalism students, Interviewer Finn (Hans Morten Hansen), cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and sound person Johanna (Johanna Mørck) are out on assignment. They believe Hans is the bear poacher. Sensing a great story they follow him into the forest, only to discover that monsters really do exist.
Filmed in a documentary style, almost every angle is filmed from the perspective of the journalists. You could say it share similar sensibilities to Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity. Fortunately it’s not a consumer grade camera, so you don’t have any of shakiness found in the aforementioned films. There is sparing use of night-vision, but to great suspenseful effect. Cinematography must be easy in Scandinavia. All you have to do is stick the lens out of the window and you have gorgeous vistas and stunning fjords.
A great acting performance by Jespersen, his tough as leather and sage portrayal of Hans was spot on. The 3 students had ample amounts of questioning and fear permeating through their performances. Amping up the degree of difficulty, all their acting had to be done with an imaginary Troll. The monsters were of course CGI added in afterwards.
Written and directed by André Øvredal, the film is unusually smart, with explanations a plenty on the science, biology and management of Trolls. The pacing was great and unlike the UK Monsters film, there is a lot of monster action going around. There’s one last part of this review that must be stated. The film is funny! Not punchline funny, but it’s got that great Norwegian deadpan sense of humor going on. Made for around $3 Million USD, it’s an amazing small sum for such a hugely fun movie. Bravo!