When we first started spending time together I knit my brow in consternation, not sure what the hell you were! Bears? What? Then when you introduce the documentary-making college kids, I inwardly groaned and wondered if you were trying to go down the mostly failed Blair Witch road and weren’t even aware you were doing it, being made in Norway and all. Then we meet Hans the poacher, (aka trollhunter, played by an epically stoic Otto Jespersen.) As the college kids catch up with him and we find out he wont put two words together willingly, I am more leery than ever.
With arms disdainfully crossed on my chest I follow some cat and mouse action that eventually finds these kids way out in the middle of deep woods at night, where Hans has led them. As I lean in expecting the standard pedantic Blair Witch documentary woods, I find these are far more imposing and the filmmaker nails the ambiance of an ink-shadowed, breathlessly menacing and eerie forest. For anyone who has ever been deep in woods at night, you know what I mean! As these youngsters ably prove, they are out of their element. Hans easily sneaks up on them and offers tired, resigned exasperation to the fact that they just wont quit following him.
So he does what you wouldn’t expect, he tells them to come along. As he melds into the darkness, off to his duty, the uncomfortable banter of those three kids starts to sound a little real just as the movie starts to feel a bit unnervingly real. The cameraman nervously scans the spot where Hans has faded into the night.
I couldn’t swear, but I may have been holding my breath a wee bit as the you really start to take off from here! The sound girl hushes the boys and some deep inhuman sounds are heard distantly with a few flashes of some sort of light, the ribbing and chuckling flee as Hans pops up in front of them and just matter-of-factly yells “Troll … Run,” and is off like a shot, too fast for such a big man. But when the pursuer is heard coming, no one sticks around!
This is the first of a few well placed ‘handy-cam’ runs that really drive the urgency in the getaway aspects of the action while at the same time never being too much or overly distracting, like it was in, say, Cloverfield. When the run pauses naturally to catch its breath the cinematography shifts seamlessly back to its natural flow! It’s a real testament to this film! Little to none of this film seems un-documentary-like, to even remotely strain the spell it casts over the viewer!
As that first giant hoary old troll is dispatched, our formerly reticent hunter Hans invites these kids into the fold under the condition they do exactly as he says and nothing else. The first thing involves troll stench and it gets worse from there. What is also brilliant is the hunters exposition of the life and times of trolls and how he talks of this amazing secret! The trollology of how they function and live is a key part to the brilliance of the whole movie! It’s fascinating how the real life differs drastically at times from fairy tales! There is even bit of dark humor to some of this with the troll-under-the-bridge scene! These are far more nasty creatures than you would ever imagine, and this film does for trolls what Jaws did for great whites! The effects and composition of the action is absolutely amazing and completely unique!
The deeper we get into this world the more we realize that Hans is almost like a modern day larger than life hero. His job is almost as hard as it would be to herd dinosaurs. With the few effective tools at his disposal and a never say die Range Rover, he is a complete killer/cleaner of these beasts! As the scope of his problem increases with roving trolls that usually stay in their areas we find the more he digs the bigger the problem becomes and his animal management issues escalate. As this great story stumbles to its end with the encounter with the big guy I am amazed to come to the conclusion that this is one of the coolest movies I have seen in a long time, years even! It is such a complete indie, foreign film out of the park home run that I have already raved about it to a number of people and will avidly follow any sequels and firmly place André Øvredal on my director radar! Thanks for a blast of a good time.
We will spend lots of future time together,