There are trolls in them thar hills
I clearly haven’t been paying enough attention to U-verse’s On Demand feature, because it turns out that they’ve been offering advanced rentals of movies not yet in theatres for some time now. What kind of cinephile am I? Since this discovery I have been known to occasionally shut off my Netflix streaming (only occasionally) and scope out what’s available. The first “not yet available” rental I made was Vanishing on 7th Street (2010), an unfortunate misstep by the talented genre filmmaker, Brad Anderson, which was shot in Detroit. So yeah, not a great start.
I fared slightly better with the Norwegian mokumentary, Trollhunter (2010), which tells the story of Hans, who has the thankless job of ridding Norway’s scenic countryside of roaming trolls. If that sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. I’m pretty sure that ridiculous was exactly what the filmmakers were going for. It’s just not quite ridiculous enough.
Using the somewhat tiresome “found footage” concept as its launching point, we are soon following a trio of documentary filmmakers investigating a mysterious rash of bear-related attacks. The bears are always found on site, shot by a hunter with its tongue hanging hilariously out of its mouth. The crew soon tracks down said hunter, a man named Hans, whose jeep is covered in claw marks and is understandably stand-offish about it.
Relentlessly dogged by the crew, Hans relents and tells them that the perpetrators of those bear attacks are actually trolls and that he was hired by a government agency called the T.S.S. (The Troll Security Service, or something like that) to coral the ones that wander off their established territories. Sounds like a scenario ripe for some political commentary, no? Hans does briefly (very briefly) lament having to go into troll territory and murder pregnant females and children along with their male counterparts, but then he’s off to kill another troll, so it’s obviously not keeping him up at night. I suppose a film called Trollhunter doesn’t have much room, nor need for political commentary. Fair enough. Anyway, the real reason we’re here is the trolls, and you know what? They look great.
There is some seriously effective CG on display here, with each troll looking very different and moving in a kind of herky-jerky throwback to stop motion animation, a welcome detail. They are all pretty traditional looking (big, phallic noses, hunched backs, etc.) as the movie makes a point of referencing folk tales repeatedly as a source of truths. Trolls, for example, obsessively hunt Christians by smell. Fee-fi-fo-fum. They also eat rocks and turn to stone when exposed to sunlight (or Hans’ handy UV gun). There’s some murky scientific explanation for that, but you can chalk it all up to a vitamin D deficiency, and if that isn’t good enough for you then I don’t know what to tell ya’.
We learn that there are several species of trolls, all leading up to an encounter with the mountain variety, whose feet are approximately the same size as Hans’ jeep. It’s quite a sight, especially when Hans is trying to navigate his speeding jeep around the troll as it lumbers down a mountain road, but the final battle is somewhat anti-climactic. In fact, the only truly satisfying troll encounter comes when Hans ties a few sheep to the rail of a bridge as bait then, attacks the baited troll wearing what looks like a wrought iron replica of the armor worn by the knights who say, “ni.”
Look, the truth is that all of this either sounds appealing to you or it doesn’t. I just have a feeling that those who do find it appealing will probably be a little bit let down. The trailer, which captures a better overall absurdist tone than the film itself, had me convinced that this was going to be a great, over the top romp. It turned out that the cast and crew took things a bit too seriously. Even a troll fart joke falls flat, and if you can’t swing a fart joke, then I don’t know what to tell ya’.