Choosing to take the well trodden ‘found footage’ path that has over the last decade slowly become a recognized sub category of both the horror and thriller genres, The Troll Hunter is difficult not to describe as a more farcical Blair Witch Project or adrenaline fueled Catfish. Indeed there’s plenty of shaky camera shots as our protagonists run in fear combined with close ups of scared faces to at first make you feel like you’re observing a carbon copy of these cheaply made shock pieces. However, the instant we’re thrust into the depths of Troll Hunters gloriously exhilarating venture into the mythical Norwegian wilderness it becomes instantly clear that this lazy journalistic stereotyping would be a total disservice to what is a uniquely creative, tongue in check, piece of lovingly assured film making.
We follow a small inexperienced group of college film students hot on the tale of a bear poacher whose been causing a stir amongst the local community. The man’s a recluse, only leaving his trailer under the cover of nightfall before vanishing into the hauntingly isolated woodlands which consume the roaming countryside of this rural northern territory of Norway. Whilst tracking him on one of these late night excursions our young documentary makers find themselves lost in the darkness whilst the forest which surrounds them seems to throb with an unnatural energy, an energy which soon explodes into a flurry of activity fuelled by fear and adrenaline as we discover this poachers chosen game is certainly no bear. He is a Troll Hunter, a man employed by the government to keep these monstrous creatures at bay and most importantly out of sight of humans. However, he’s recently become disenfranchised with the job, especially the long work hours and lack of overtime pay. Yet the unconventional nature of his chosen career means there’s no union with which to lodge a formal grievance, so instead he decides to allow our intrepid and persistent film maker to follow him and expose the existence of these terrifying beasts.
As you’d expect Troll Hunter is full of heart pounding action and edge of seat suspense, yet its biggest achievement has to be its meticulous use of humour to convey its surprisingly engrossing back story. Never coming across as cheap or misplaced the troll hunter’s blasé attitude in explaining the difference between the childhood myths about troll’s and the actuality of their existence (for example the revelation they can smell the blood of a Christian so no believers can be present on the hunt makes for a hilariously tense scene as the chase thickens) makes for a incomparably enjoyable experience which pulls the film out of the contrived gutter of cheap shocks most found footage film’s inevitably find themselves in. Indeed it’s this attention to detail and seemingly thorough research into these age old Scandinavian myths that makes Troll Hunter more than just a thrilling piece of throw away cinema. Acting as a solid foundation for the films ludicrous premise, these bizarrely transfixing collections of tall tales and childhood fables curiously helps the film remain moderately stepped in realism and ultimately as immersive as the fantasy films of our youth.
With the exception of our central protagonist, the cast, as so often is the case with these mockumentaries, appear a little too one dimensional for the film to be truly classified as the resounding success many have claimed it to be. Great use of the astoundingly beautiful Norwegian countryside almost seems to add a whole new rounded character to the story to counter balance what, all in all, in a minuscule gripe at an otherwise surprisingly unique and enjoyable film which, both manages to excite and amuse in equal measures.