Norway's nasty big secret
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, July 1, 2011
Picture a Norwegian version of “The Blair Witch Project,” but with CGI trolls, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from “Trollhunter.”
Presented as a barely edited cache of “found” footage, and ostensibly shot by a trio of film students who have since mysteriously disappeared, the movie is both faintly scary and faintly ridiculous. Neither of these things irredeemably damps the film’s warmly goofy pleasures, of which there are enough to make it slightly more than a curiosity.
Some of the trolls — who come in breeds such as Ringlefinch and Tosserlad — have multiple heads. Others have noses the size of bologna logs and fur pelts that make them look like refugees from the studios of Sid and Marty Kroft. They are all, without exception, nasty pieces of work.
Their ill tempers, however, can be a bit hard to swallow, considering that most of them look more like giant versions of toys than anything that would terrorize a nation descended from the Vikings.
Talk about baloney.
Still, the film by Andre Ovredal seems all in good fun. How else to explain the central premise? To wit: that modern Norway is a land so plagued by trolls that there’s a secret government agency devoted to their eradication, not to mention the suppression of anyone who accidentally finds out about the program. (See also: “Men in Black.”)
Called the Troll Security Service (TSS), the organization is the employer of the film’s titular hero, Hans (Otto Jespersen). Over the course of the movie, Hans tracks down, and then dispatches, all manner of nuisance trolls, armed only with an arsenal of what amounts to giant sunlamps. Trolls, you see, are nocturnal and turn to stone when exposed to UV light. Or else they explode in a gooey mess. Notoriously dim-witted, they have not yet figured out sunscreen.
Early in the story, three college kids (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck and Tomas Alf Larsen) stumble upon Hans while they’re filming a documentary about a recent spate of bear attacks. Or what they think are bear attacks. Ovredal has a lot of fun with this, showing us how Hans’s bureaucratic colleagues play cleanup after him, depositing freshly killed bear carcasses — and incriminating paw prints — for the locals to find in the woods wherever there has been a troll sighting. However improbably, the three quickly talk Hans into letting them tag along and film him.
Hans, for his part, is fond of griping about all the paperwork his job entails. Never mind the odd hours, the “troll stench” he has to slather nightly onto his clothes in order to mask his human smell, and a litany of occupational hazards that run from being eaten alive — despite a homemade suit of armor that makes him look like the Tin Man — to being flattened like a bug.
As with “The Blair Witch Project,” Ovredal uses a lot of shaky, blurry and poorly composed footage, night vision photography and scenes of characters talking directly into the camera. The effectiveness of these techniques has been diminished by the many intervening years — and copycat films — since 1999.
But the film’s real problem is that it can’t seem to make up its mind about whether it wants to frighten us or make us laugh. It does a little bit of both, to be sure, but not nearly enough of either to make much of a lasting impression.
Contains obscenity and some scary sequences. In Norwegian with English subtitles.