Earlier in the year, Hollywood Soapbox reviewed the new monster movie, Trollhunter, from director André Øvredal. Here’s that review, plus some comments about the movie’s recent DVD release.
It sounds ridiculous, but the payoff is pure magic.
Trollhunter tracks the journey of a group of Norwegian film students as they investigate a string of bear attacks in northern Norway. With their amateur cameras rolling, they stumble across a supposed bear tracker as he makes his way to the upper reaches of Norway, among the glens and dales of this remote country. What they find defies explanation.
The man (Otto Jespersen) is, in fact, the government’s leading hunter of trolls, those mythical beasts that have entered the realms of mystical lore. Now, I know what you’re thinking, as soon as the word troll is mentioned, you are probably turned off. Wasn’t there a horrible 1980s film called Troll? Wasn’t there an even worse sequel called Troll 2?
Trust me, these trolls are big, violent, and worth the price of admission. Using a cinema vérité style, director André Øvredal is able to create a clever monster flick that is two parts Blair Witch Project and one part Cloverfield. The results are thrillingly entertaining.
The actual trolls are kept just out of sight from the camera in the beginning, much like Jaws kept the shark hidden for the first half of the film. But when the trolls finally do hit the screen, it’s a smorgasbord of stellar computer effects. Because much of the film is shot at night, often with night vision, the trolls come off much more realistic. There are never any shots that focus in on one of the beasts for too long, and this keeps everything mysterious and creepy. Of the details that you are able to decipher, the images are beautifully grotesque. These trolls are bumpy mountain beasts with big noses, scraggly hair and brutish faces. They amble around, throwing things in the air and sometimes even turning into stone.
Though the creatures look terrifying, the movie is not scary, but it definitely keeps the adrenaline pumping. Øvredal, who also wrote the screenplay, has his characters perform smart tasks in light of the monster attack. Too often these films fall under the weight of their own inanity (you know, when bimbos run right into the arms of the monster). Not so with Trollhunter. This is a surprisingly smart movie that relies as much on its visuals and scare factor as it does on its storytelling and plot.
Although the actors playing the film students are nicely cast, there is no denying that the title character, the trollhunter himself, is the best of the bunch. Jespersen has that Robert Shaw quality about him: He’s a loner, a rogue, a man whose mission is to kill the big one. But unlike many other monster movies, the trollhunter’s many kills must be masked by the government. His exploits need to be kept hidden, in order to preserve the secret of what’s lurking just over the mountains in the highlands of Norway.
For a movie that sounds absurd on paper, Trollhunter proves to be one of the best films of the year and even one of the best monster movies of all time.
The DVD features deleted scenes, improv and bloopers, extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, photo galleries and HDNET: A Look at Trollhunter. All of the bonus material enhances the film, letting the viewer peek behind the curtain at how the director pulled off the visual effects.
Upon second viewing, the movie holds up just fine. In fact, Trollhunter feels even more appropriate for smaller television screens because it heightens the cinema vérité style.
The visual effects are impressive for a film that likely didn’t have much of a budget. The performances continue to shine, and those trolls look exquisite.
There’s been talk of an American remake, which is slightly unfortunate. If Western audiences would give the original a chance, they will find themselves intrigued and enthralled by what’s lurking over the next mountain.By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com