At the start of the film, we are given a message that the following footage found and is offered to us without comment. It is the footage shot by three Norwegian college students (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen) who were tracking down a news story about a series of bear murders around Norway, and the mysterious man in a weird van, Hans (Otto Jespersen), who is supposedly behind it.
They end up tracking him down to a trailer park where they ambush him with cameras and lights and try to get an interview. He brushes them aside and goes on about his business. They get the shock of their lives, however, when they follow him into the woods, hoping to catch him red handed. What they find instead is an onrushing Hans, screaming at them — “TROLL!”
They run, finding their car bitten in half, and eventually, from somewhere in the moving treetops, see it. A goddamn giant, monstrous, three-headed troll, running right at them.
Annoyed somewhat at his bosses, Hans tells them the students can follow him — as long as none of them are Christian. Trolls, you see, can smell the blood of a Christian man. The three all assure him that they are not Christians and they begin traipsing around Northwestern Norway in search of trolls — and answers.
It’s an impossible thing to deny the fact that The Troll Hunter is great fun (especially on a big screen), but it’s hardly a breakthrough experience. At times it treads too clumsily on the ground that The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield (etc…) have paved before it without bringing anything really new to the increasingly loathsome “found footage” genre of filmmaking. As the gruff, tired troll hunting veteran, Otto Jespersen serves up quite a lot to like, especially as he morphs into a reluctant father figure, trying to keep the students safe, but the films big comedy setpiece is one long troll fart joke that André Øvredal almost seems to be embarrassed about having included.
Growing up, I had a friend whose family was from Norway, but none of the stories he told us involved trolls, so I don’t know where this falls into the Norwegian myth canon, if it does at all. Even with the ’94 Olympics taking place in Norway, it’s a country that Americans were never really educated about, or at least my classmates and I weren’t. But the exquisite local atmosphere and breathtaking Norwegian mountain scenery are exciting inclusions that set the films secondary mode almost into travelogue territory. At points, they are worth almost as much as the story of troll hunting, if not more.
I would have preferred to just see it as straight storytelling rather than the reliance on the camera crew, but the film still works well. It’s a film that might work better as an experience than it does as film by itself, but that’s more than most films can say at the end of the day.