“Trollhunter”: Norwegian Mockumentary Improves on Blair Witch Model

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As the opening sequence for Trollhunter (2010) faded in and out, I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Found footage? Puh. Unnamed scientists deemed it to be authentic? Bah. We’ve seen these opening titles a million times over, what should be different about this one? Despite my resistance to watching it, Trollhunter is actually very well known in the B-movie community. It was released to astonishingly good reviews – receiving an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. At the insistence of many friends and half a glass of wine later, I decided to ignore my prejudice and check it out.

And oh, was I proved wrong.

Trollhunter is a mockumentary that manages to nudge the audience with its elbow while simultaneously creeping the crap out of them. The film documents the journey of three young college students that follow a mysterious recluse into the Norwegian woods only to discover that this man does not hunt bears, but trolls.

The three ambitious students make the long drive out to the Norwegian countryside to meet with a group of bear hunters. They curl their lips at the mention of Hans, a bear poacher. The bear population is heavily regulated by the government, so when they find a dead bear that was not killed by the local hunters, eyes turn to Hans… and the strange tracks that surround the corpse.

The trio follow Hans into the woods, and hear terrifying roars, nothing like they have ever heard before. At this point, I’m heavily reminded of The Blair Witch Project (1999), another mockumentary film with a similar concept. Except with The Blair Witch Project, I felt duped after watching it. I sat through an hour and a half of shaky cam and annoying screaming only to see half a second of actual terror at the very end? Trollhunter doesn’t have that problem. The scary bits are cleverly crafted, you actually get to see some trolls, the performances feel true to the characters, and at some points you completely forget that it’s a low-budget horror film. The rest of the film follows the three students as they team up with Hans on his quest to kill trolls, and the shady, underhand tactics the government uses to try and stop them.

The camera lingers on the beautiful Norwegian landscape – a view that reminds me of the drive from Vancouver to Banff during the rainy months. Overcast, foggy and desaturated. While some may argue that this movie is just ‘ugly’ and terribly shot, I felt that it gave the film a much creepier tone and feeling than the name would suggest. Also, the fact that I didn’t understand a single word any of them were saying only added to the authenticity of the ‘documentary’.

Sure, the movie suffers from several low-budget horror cliches and tired conventions, but at its core, it’s an incredibly amusing and thrilling monster movie that you simply must see.