Daniel Green FrightFest

FrightFest 2011: ‘Troll Hunter’ review

★★☆☆☆

In the run-up to its Saturday screening at this year’s Film4 FrightFest, I can exclusively reveal that Norwegian mockumentary Troll Hunter (2010) revolves around the act of…troll hunting. It really is that simple – and one of the most striking examples of one dimensional, vacuous cinema seen in recent years (with the exception of perhaps the vile The Hangover Part II [2011]).

Taking a massive, neck-snapping nod from past supernatural ‘found footage’ efforts The Last Broadcast (1998), The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Cloverfield (2007), director André Øvredal’s second feature is bookended by bland subtitles preaching about the film’s authenticity. Yet in fairness, Troll Hunter begins well, as we follow a young team of avid Volda College film makers as they document a recent spate of bear-related chaos in Western Norway. It isn’t long before our intrepid camera crew stumble across mysterious bearded ‘poacher’ Hans (Otto Jespersen) creeping through the desolated pine forests under the cover of darkness.

Unfortunately, at the first cry of “Troll!” Troll Hunter quickly unravels into nothingness. Each new variant of troll – from the triple-headed ‘Tosserlad’ to the gargantuan, 200-foot-tall ‘Jötmar’ – increasingly begin to resemble the discarded, malformed extras of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009). What’s more, there is absolutely no fear factor. The film is unclassifiable as a horror, lacking any of the suspense and teeth-grinding tension of its mockumentary forefathers.

Any recognisable semblance of genuine humour is also clearly lacking from the film. A clumsy meditation on Scandinavian Christianity is inserted in an attempt to reach something approaching humour (apparently, Norway’s dwindling troll populace are driven wild by the smell of perspiring Jesus enthusiasts), but ultimately falls flat on its face and crumbles – much like the film’s central antagonists.

Troll Hunter had all the potential to be an entertaining, darkly funny and importantly unique entry into the ‘found footage’ sub genre. Instead, Øvredal has succeeded in producing a hugely disappointing, tired and clichéd also-ran. If its troll-orientated thrills you’re looking for, then sit tight for Peter Jackson’s wildly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) (or revisit his initial LOTR trilogy).

Daniel Green