When a group of Norwegian students head out to investigate the truth behind a recent spate of bear killing, they eventually track down the supposed culprit – the mysterious Hans (Otto Jespersen). But as they follow the man on his nocturnal missions, it soon becomes apparent that, while he is a hunter, his prey is bigger and far more dangerous than the kids could possibly have imagined.
TrollHunter is a modern found footage mock documentary about people searching the Norwegian wilds for real life Trolls and despatching them with bursts of ultraviolet light. And while the introduction and the shooting style strives for verisimilitude, it’s clear that none of it is really meant to be taken seriously.
It makes the format itself a little pointless – found footage films are ideally suited to low budget horror, with some well paced creeps and a limited perspective from some hand held cameras. But when the monsters are 200 feet tall, the attempt to make it feel like unfiltered reality quickly wears thin.
That doesn’t mean that TrollHunter isn’t entertaining. While the opening, shakycam investigation is a little dry, the banter between the students is engaging enough and Jespersen’s Hans suitably forbidding. We never really learn enough about the character to care much about their fates and there’s rather more exposition about the conspiracy surrounding the Troll cover up than is really necessary but the frame of the film does a decent job of maintaining the illusion of a documentary.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Trolls are the real star of the film. From a murky first reveal, the filmmakers don’t shy away from exposing their CGI creations to the full scrutiny of the audience. And, for the most part, the results are stunning – creating a real sense of menace and of these massive creatures inhabiting the world. The encounters themselves are less frequent than you might imagine but it all leads up to a fantastic face off against a towering enemy the likes of which you’ll likely never have seen on screen.
Add in the beautiful vistas of some of the most isolated regions of Norway and TrollHunter looks far more expensive than its tiny $3.5 million dollar budget. And if tech specs were the only important criteria, it would be a masterpiece but an underwritten story, awkward format and self indulgent length mean it has to settle for being an intermittently engaging creature feature.