(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: TROLLHUNTER is a serious Norwegian horror film that is also a satire of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. University students making a documentary about a supposed bear poacher find the man is instead a government agent controlling and helping to keep secret the population of deadly trolls. Andre Ovredal writes and directs his account straight-faced with a wicked sense of humor. TROLLHUNTER is an unexpected pleasure for viewers who can shudder at the horrific aspects while still appreciating the humor. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Success breeds imitators. The film THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT demonstrated an ironic principle. A skillful director can make a very low budget for a horror film work better more effectively than a higher budget and more polished effort might. The trick is to make the film seem like it was made by amateurs filming what they were actually seeing. Low-budget efforts like CARNIVAL OF SOULS, NIGHT TIDE, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and more recently PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are examples. Particularly films shot with hand-held cameras allow the low budget to give them an air of authenticity and immediacy. A Wes Craven film shot in Technicolor with background music to tell the viewer when to be frightened does not have nearly the same genuineness.

The premise of TROLLHUNTER, much like that of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, suggests that the film is made up of footage found after actual events and that after investigation this film has been judged to be authentic. We are seeing the film that was shot in chronological order. Some college student filmmakers go into the forests of western Norway trying to find and make a film about a notorious bear poacher, Hans (played by Norwegian comic Otto Jespersen). He wants no part of their film. They continue to shadow him and come face-to-face with his secret. He is not hunting bears but twenty-foot tall trolls. One of these trolls attacks him and the students. Hans flashes a special light at the troll and the troll turns to stone. Only once the students have discovered what he is really doing does he begrudgingly allow them to travel with him. Together they try to track down the monstrous trolls.

Writer/director Andre Ovredal makes few concessions to make the trolls more believable. These are not troll-like aliens or something primeval that inspires folktales of trolls. These are trolls just like in the storybooks and not at all like Shrek. They have distorted human faces that look perhaps like Brian Froud illustrations. It is very important that there are no Christians in the hunting party, because trolls can smell Christian blood. In addition they all have to douse themselves in troll's nauseating scent so no human smell comes through. Trolls turn to stone in sunlight and Hans's most effective weapon is a light that flashes simulated sunlight and turns trolls to stone even at night.

Ovredal departs briefly from the "Blair Witch" style to have a doctor give us a scientific rationale for some of the limitations of trolls. But most of the film is just tracing the troll hunters and seeing them get into deeper danger than they are prepared for. The visual style filmed by Hallvard Braein copies the style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT with night vision filters that recreate the look. The film has small homages to other popular fantasy films including a chase at the end that reminds one of JURASSIC PARK. But he manages to do this without changing the serious demeanor of the proceedings.

TROLLHUNTER is a film that one can appreciate as a chilling horror film and at the same time enjoy the absurdity of the premise. I rate TROLLHUNTER a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. TROLLHUNTER is currently available from Netflix streaming. The IMDB lists a film planned for 2014 that will be a remake, though the character of the film seems very Norwegian and an American remake set in Norway or a remake with Bigfoot set in the United States just does not seem like a viable idea. I recommend seeing the original.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper