In the tradition of the reality-horror spawned by The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter is what it says on the tin: hunting trolls. A group of three Norwegian university students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), create a documentary about Hans (Otto Jespersen), whom they believe is poaching bears, only to discover he is hunting much larger game.
What they unearth is a grand conspiracy to keep trolls from the general public. Early on, the intrepid troll hunter decides to share everything, and in doing so reveals a few important rules: 1) trolls are like gorillas, humanoid animals, 2) they can smell the blood of a Christian man, 3) they will eat anything. These lessons are demonstrated in graphic fashion as Hans takes on each of the different types of trolls in their natural habitat, ranging from under bridges to cavern lairs.
Troll Hunter has an explanation for everything, ranging from their vulnerability to sunlight to how they’re kept under wraps. There’s even a Norwegian government agency conspiracy, the Troll Security Service (TSS), dedicated to covering it all up. The trolls are bad enough; government goons are an even greater threat.
The trolls are beautifully rendered in CGI that would probably not stand up to scrutiny under a wide angle lens. But the small camera the university students use conceals many flaws, which makes the trolls all the more terrifying. Although Troll Hunter strives heroically to have the trolls make sense, it sticks to its guns on making trolls giant, hirsute, lumpy creatures with big noses and tails. They are paintings come to life.
Hans, a war veteran, has a fatalistic air about him as he pursues these trolls, and we get the sense that he is looking for a way out of a profession for which there is no retirement. As the trolls become more aggressive he seeks larger and larger prey, until eventually he finds his Moby Dick in a Jotnar, which towers over two hundred feet tall.
Troll Hunter’s biggest flaw is its character development. When the university students witness a death at the hand of a troll, they are sporadically concerned – no explanation is given for why they don’t just call the authorities, give up, or mourn their friend properly. Half the time they seem to think the entire thing is a big joke, even after one of them is mauled by a troll. They seem to have no plan for the revolutionary footage they record and, despite repeated threats by TSS agents, stubbornly stick to a near suicidal course of action. These are idiots asking to be eaten.
That said, they didn’t name this film Stupid Student Hunter. It’s all about the trolls and Troll Hunter delivers in spades. Here’s hoping the American remake will make the characters more sympathetic.