Troll Hunter (2010) is a rare thing – a modern horror film which eschews visceral gore for subtlety and a genuine air of unease. Starring Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck and Tomas Alf Larsen, Norwegian director André Øvredal’s debut feature was a smash hit at last year’s Film4 Frighfest. Watching it now on DVD, you’ll understand why.
Something is killing tourists and livestock in the frozen wastes of Norway. Three students, Thomas (Tosterud), Johanna (Mørck) and Kalle (Larsen) decide to investigate and take along a camera to record their findings. But when they come across a reclusive hunter called Hans (Jespersen), who appears to be after some very big game, they realise they might be in for more than they bargained for.
In the years since The Blair Witch Project (1999) introduced cinema goers to the mockumentary, familiarity has bred contempt. Overuse of found footage in films from the Paranormal Activity franchise, Cloverfield (2008) and the woeful Evil Things (2009) has lead to the concept losing any of its shock value.
So how does Troll Hunter achieve freshness in a field now stale and out of date? It’s hard to pinpoint as, on the face of it, it has little originality. The film’s protagonists are the usual group of college friends making a project documentary, whilst the government conspiracy subplot though neatly done has been seen before. The trolls when they eventually show themselves, despite being surprisingly unsettling (especially the towering 200ft one who lives in the frozen wastes beyond the mountains) look like rejects from the Jim Henson school of puppetry.
However it may be the fact you don’t see much of the trolls which is the film’s saving grace. The shambling creatures which, according to Hans, fall into two groups – mountain trolls and forest trolls (and are then split into multitudinous sub groups), actually appear on-screen for very little time, but more than make up for this in ferocity, destroying everything in their paths from livestock and humans to whole forests and roads. This, along with some icily beautiful mountain scenery and the cast’s tongue-in-cheek approach, lend the proceedings a disarming air of reality.
The US rights to Troll Hunter were already bought by Summit Entertainment for Americanisation in 2014 before the initial film’s release – make sure you see the original before Hollywood inevitably spoils this low budget gem.