Troll Hunter (2013)

 

Troll Hunter is a 2010 Norwegian horror movie about the traditional western folklore of the Trolls. We here at A - Z Horror are well-known for loving modern takes on traditional folklore. Does this hit that sweet spot? Well continue on down for the trailer, and then venture a little further south for our review. Unless you're worried about spoilers. Because (as always) we do those.

 
 

Mark: Troll Hunter. Norwegian Folktale Extravaganza. I’m not one for foreign movies but this one is pretty great. We’ve seen this about twice now sober(ish) and about 3-4 more times otherwise? Anyway, there you have it. Ratings?

Jake: This is the second time I’ve seen it whilst not multiple sheets to the wind. I think… Don’t worry about it. I’m credible, goddamnit! And as a credible movie reviewer who is NOT blackout while typing this, I think it’s incumbent on us to actually talk about the movie a bit before firing into ratings. Mark.

Mark: Oh sure, now we step up the detail. What are we? Some type of newfangled media reviewing website? Oh. Shit. I don’t remember signing up for this. Whatever, so be it. Troll Hunter is a Norwegian found-footage style “horror” movie dating back to 2010. It seems like we basically all liked it, yeah?

Jake: Yeah, definitely. It’s a found footage romp through Norwegian folklore. And to your point about foreign films; from an immersion standpoint, this movie really benefitted from being shot in Norwegian. That element of authenticity helped grab you from the jump as it established its reason for filming. And hallelujah, it didn’t fall trap to the ol’ “why the fuck are they filming this?” issue a lot of found footage flicks have.

Mark: Exactly right, Jake. Just like a broken clock twice a day. We are quickly introduced to our three protagonists: Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle. They’re an intrepid trio of journalism/film students from the local college making a documentary on bear hunting for the class. I’m sure the class is waiting with baited breath. With that premise they simultaneously explain why they have access to nice equipment and are also bad at talking to the camera. It also explains why they keep filming once shit gets real, because, I mean, you know… exposée.

Jake: Definitely. And you also raise another good point about the acting. I think the movie not only does a good job of writing in its reasons so you can avoid wondering and nit-picking, but, as with any foreign language film, it provides the unintentional benefit making it hard to pick up on bad acting. Now I know what you’re thinking, and yes. It’s a tradeoff because you also miss out on nuance and there are bound to be culturally relevant things you miss. Bhttps://youtu.be/KgqzMdBg7ig?t=39sut who gives a damn? Anyway, the three students quickly uncover a story of an apparent bear poacher who is wreaking havoc on the Norwegian ursine community like a total d-bag. The bear hunting community is pissed off.

Mark: And rightfully so, Jake. Bear murder, like the Wu-Tang Clan, aint nothing to fuck with, unless you have a permit at least. Soon enough we meet Hans, because what else are you gonna name a mysterious permitless bear murdering stranger in Scandinavia? He’s definitely not a bear hunter. Did you think he was a bear hunter? He’s not a bear hunter. After a few gumshoe detective moves on the part of our protagonists we stumble upon Hans in the middle of the woods at which point he delivers the single most important and aptly-yelled-while-drunk  line in the movie: TRRROOOOOLLLLL!

 

Spoiler alert: Best damn line in the damn movie.

 

Jake: It’s so fucking good. Not the best line, but so good. His appearance sends the group into a frenzy a la The Blair Witch Project as they run through the woods at night to get to god knows where while they run away from god knows what. Well, I guess we do know what. Hans made it pretty fucking clear. As did the title of the film. But what I’m saying is at this stage, we still don’t know to what extent any trolls will or will not make an appearance, or what color their hair will be.

 
Another spoiler alert: They don't look like this. Even at all. Who the fuck even posts this picture online? This is fucked up. Even for the internet.

Another spoiler alert: They don't look like this. Even at all. Who the fuck even posts this picture online? This is fucked up. Even for the internet.

 

Jake: Thomas gets bitten while running away and they manage to get him back to Hans’s car where they give him some treatment. Hans proceeds to take them back to his shit heap of a trailer where it becomes immediately apparent that Hans is one of a few things:

  • An out-of-his-gourd fuckwad

  • A concerningly extreme practical joker

  • Legit

Jake: Dude’s boiling troll-stank in a single-wide to concentrate the stench as a sort of hunter’s perfume. By the way, the answer to the above is clearly option C.

* Editor's Note: Apparently the Swedish word for 'troll-stank' is just 'troll-stonk.' Seriously. That's what they call it. Watch this movie. Check it out.

Mark: So after a short bit of character development, which is both subtle and humorous, we get a rundown on the trolls. There are the Ringlefinches, the Tosserlads, the Jotnar, the Hardings (out west), and of course the Mountain Kings.Come to find out later these were basically all made up on the spot by the actor who plays Hans.

 
 

Jake: Subtle is definitely the word I’d choose to describe it as well. Like I said earlier, I’m SURE there are things lost on me as a viewer because I’m an ignorant American (fuck me, right?), but there still seems to be a good deadpan going on for the entire 90 minute affair. I mean shit, Hans is played by Otto Jespersen, who is a pretty well known Norwegian comedian. Had I known that the first time I saw this, I think it would have actually been to the detriment of my viewing experience. I like this movie because it makes absurd feel natural. It doesn’t feel like one of those Syfy channel camp-fests.

Mark: The film is exceedingly good satire. On par with the first few seasons of the Colbert Report before people figured that shit out. To make the distinction, it is definitively not parody. Any humor in this film (and there is quite a bit) is nestled very subtly within the script. The most on-the-nose joking in the movie is performed by another Norwegian comedian portraying a Polak taxidermist. Even though that scene is genuinely funny, it’s depth is not immediately obvious, and I’ll admit was fully over my head until this most recent viewing.

 
 

*Editor's Note* The Polish dude is genuinely great. There's also a lot of subtext going on here that's lost to the casual viewer, which is okay because the casual viewer just gets to see a hilarious scene. Shit . . . that was some real commentary, I should balance that out by pointing out that that dude sounds exactly like Ilya Brzgalov:

 
 

Jake: So to get back to the plot for a second, Hans goes from telling the kids to fuck off to welcoming them to film him doing his job and shamelessly bashing the working conditions he’s dealing with. Again, I’m no expert on the Norwegian workforce, but if I were, I imagine this would have been even more funny in its satire. The first night out, they find themselves face to face with a troll of the Tosserlad variety. It’s here that a few of the film’s strengths begin to come through. The first is that it uses CG that doesn’t look like dog shit. The second is that it also uses that CG intelligently, and it’s a boon for the found footage style. A lot of the trickier shots with the trolls are done in night-vision mode which removes the need for a good amount of detail while still doing the trick.

Mark: Speaking of night vision, it should be noted that basically all of the troll encounters are shot at night since trolls are allergic to sunlight. There’s some very very light science nonsense about how they can’t convert Vitamin D to Calcium that explains why the trolls either explode or petrify when exposed to light. There’s a lot of bastardized idiot-middle-schooler-wrote-this-on-facebook level science in the movie about how trolls grow extra heads to impress females and their gestational period is 15 years and they eat rocks. It’s pretty dumb once you start thinking about it, but it matches the serious yet absurd tone so well that it doesn’t detract from the film at all.

Jake: Next, the group is off to a bridge to find the Ringlefinch they were looking for. Hans serves up some goats and dumps a fucking bucket full of a Christian man’s blood all over the place to attract the troll. How did he get so much blood? Anyway, the goal is to take a sample of the trolls blood for observation by a veterinarian to try to assess why it’s left its territory. Trolls are mammals btw. They just  turn to stone or explode in light… The troll comes and treats us to an awesome fight scene with Hans, who is wearing a weird metal suit of armor and carrying a syringe that looks more like an oil can than a syringe. Seriously, just watch this shit.

 
 

 

Jake: Outstanding.

Mark: Typical Ringlefinch, man. Always trying to pulverize people who steal their blood. They just can’t take a joke. Before long the fantastic foursome find themselves, literally, in the hall of the mountain kings. They go in to investigate a troll den, and are trapped when a large group of Mountain King trolls return. A few fart jokes and nightvision shots later we get Kalle frantically rubbing himself in Trollstank by Dior. Turns out, whodathunk, he’s the christian of the group? Why didn’t he mention something? Shit, I dunno. Something something persecution… something something peer pressure? Anyway, let’s just say their escape goes less than smoothly and Kalle get’s eaten right in the body. Right. In. The. Body. You need that to live, you know. Your body.

Jake: It would appear so… And more importantly (nobody gave a shit about Kalle) they break their camera lens! We’re then treated to an awkward sequence that lasts way too long where they are filming through the broken lens. It’s kind of infuriating, but at the same time I have to give it props for not rushing headlong into a plot hole for the sake of making it look a little less jarring.

Mark: They replace the camera by bringing a new cameralady, Malica. There’s another fairly comedic scene where they ask her if she’s christian and she says that she is a muslim. Thomas asks Hans, a professional troll hunter for more than a few decades, whether or not that is acceptable. Hans seems flummoxed, or perhaps even nonplussed, and simply goes with “I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out.”

Jake: New camerawoman with potentially ok religious views in tow, the crew is off again. This time to the mountains to try to get to the bottom of some power anomalies. We get some more hilarity as they, and I quote Hans, “visit the clowns at the power grid”. Turns out none of those goofs can explain why they have gigantic-ass power lines running in circles in the middle of the mountains. Where people don’t live. Because we viewers are now troll experts due to the outstanding education we’ve received from Hans, we know it's there to keep trolls in their territory. An electric fence.

Mark: Here we get another dose of humor from yet another Norwegian comedian cameo as a power plant worker explaining why it’s important to move the electrons around. Gotta keep em moving. I suppose it’s a solid play for levity between two of the heavier scenes in the movie. I mean, their friend did just die after all.

Jake: Hans receives a call that the Ringlefinch he sampled had rabies. Stands to reason all these strangely behaving trolls have rabies. Stands to reason Thomas, who has been feeling sick, has rabies.

Mark: He doesn’t have rabies man. Dogs have rabies. Not him, though. Not no way, not no how. But yeah, he definitely does, and he’s just been running around with duct tape holding his wounds shut for the last week. Solid move. Also, unfortunately for Thomas, rabies is a distant third on the list of things actively trying to kill him.

Jake: By this point in the film we know the stage is set for something big. And my god we get something big. They don’t let it drag at all. Hans throws a Mad Max style spiked cage on his jeep and prepares for battle. It’s not long before they start to feel something shaking the ground like an earthquake. Far off in the distance, a troll the size of a damned mountain comes into view. A Jotnar, as Hans describes. So what do they do, drive the fuck out there and chase it down, delivering the finishing blow with a sort of UV Ray Rocket launcher he’s had up his sleeve the whole time.

Mark: Hans walks off into the distance Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk style, and we see his old bureaucrat of a boss, Finn, roll up and go after the tapes. Turns out the Norwegian government has a vested interest in covering that shit up. A brief chase ensues and the movie closes with a semi truck slamming on its breaks as it careens toward the trio. Frankly, there’s a pretty large gap between this end and the prologue. How did the tapes get from some random trucker to be released as a movie? How did it escape being censored?

Jake: Yeah that didn’t make sense to me either. Luckily it was the last 15 seconds of the movie, so I can’t really call it immersion breaking. Maybe the trucker killed them for the film after he saw what was on it… Oh shit. That’s the sequel. I can see it now.

Mark: Nailed it. Ratings.

RATINGS (1-10):

For 1, think of how you would rate this person's chances of having a healthy social life:

 
 

For 10, think of how humongous big the universe is:

 
 

STORY:

Mark: 8 - This is a great example of employing folklore in such a way that it works for you. Unlike The Hallow, which just sorta invoked it and walked away, this movie actually builds on the canon and shows how it would and wouldn’t work today. Plus, it’s one of the better executed pieces of satire I’ve ever seen.

Jake: 7.5 - It’s a simple but effective concept for a story. I give a lot of credit to the level of detail they went to to create a mythos around the trolls. Hans’ education on them was often hilarious, but ultimately made you feel like what they were doing fit into a larger ecosystem juuuuust enough. Bonus point for splicing together a real Prime Minister press conference at the end to validate troll existence.

WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Mark: 10 - I have to try really hard to nit pick stuff that took me out of this one. I suppose I could point to the broken camera lens or the ill conceived science, but at that point what’s the point of even having a scale that goes to 10? This movie is engrossing, entertaining, and paced well. There are holes if want to find them, but they’re exceptionally minor and generally more a matter of preference than objectively bad filmmaking.

Jake: 8 - I said it earlier, but I think the foreign language aspect of the film actually helped with the immersion for me. I got some of the jokes but was shielded from any potential duds in line delivery. I applied the reason for filming above. Most importantly, it establishes a reason for filming; key for a found footage flick.

SCARE-FACTOR:

Mark: 1 - Yeah this isn’t a scary movie. My commute to work in the morning is scarier in many ways than this film. I think it still falls into the genre of horror, but that’s basically just because what the hell else are you going to call it? A political mock documentary?

Jake: 2 - This score was always going to be low. It’s not attempting to be scary. That said, there are some early shots (before we know what’s going on) that are tense and atmospheric, and the cave scene is intense as well.

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Mark: 7 - It’s easy to talk about the trolls and the nightvision and whatnot here. They were good for the most part and stand up well even after half a decade. Also of note here though is the great set design, costumes, music (or judicious lack thereof), and sound. The CG is good, but the rest of the effects are really what tie it together.

Jake: 7 - I praised the intelligent use of CG earlier in the review. The fact of the matter is, I don’t like CG for effects, but there isn’t much they can do to get these trolls on screen in the way of practical effects. Given the use of CG, there were a lot of good decisions made, and the trolls actually looked pretty good. Set design was also strong in this one. Hans’ trailer was glorious.

OVERALL:

Mark: 8 - This movie is great. It’s found footage (which I’m a sucker for), it hits notes of satire without pandering or tipping into simple parody, and overall it just executes. It’s unique and gives us a great glimpse (I assume) into Norwegian folklore and culture. There isn’t much of a scare factor to it, but who cares if you’re having fun? One more time: TRRRRROOOOOOLLLLLLLL!

Jake: 7 - A solid, solid entry into the found footage catalogue. I have a fun time watching this every time I fire it up, and definitely recommend it to anyone, not just horror fans. In fact, this could be one of those horror fringe movies that act like a gateway drug. Try it on your next date movie night. You’re welcome.