There are few films in the history of cinema about trolls that are actually great. Well, there is one other film that comes to mind but it actually is so bad that it's amazing. This particular film comes from Nordic director André Øvredal who was responsible for 2000's Future Murder. Oh? You didn't see that? I don't blame you because I'm pretty sure I'm one of eight people who did. Here's a quick Pro-Tip: Don't watch it. Terrible attempt at minimalist psychological thriller with a twist ending you see coming from ten miles away. Awful. Lessons learned from reading review snippets on box covers for independent movies.
This review, however, isn't about that other steaming pile of crap but rather this writer/director's second effort which is actually quite good!
The film begins with a standard issue flash of text stating that this footage was pieced together from an amateur film crew's experiences. The hard drives storing said film somehow made their way to the office, and well, you're watching the remains of what will prove to be a rather wild ride. It, however, doesn't get started in a way that could be considered exciting at all. It's rather bland for the first ten minutes or so. There are lots of crooked angle shots out of a car window, conversations between the students capturing the footage and some B-roll of interviews with citizens and local authorities about a string of incidents caused, supposedly, by raging bears.
They are in pursuit of a known poacher named Hans and their first attempts at gaining access to his sordid affairs are of no use. Their relentless journalistic curiosity leads them to follow the hunter into the woods to force him into an interview. This is where, thankfully, the film actually finds its legs and starts on it's way.
I can't really spoil the plot from this point out because, well, the title says it all. Hans turns out to be an agent of the Nordic government for the TSS (Troll Security Service). He is the only one of his kind and, frankly, monitoring and controlling troll activity is rather hairy business. A mystery is afoot, though, as the behavior of those darned trolls as of late is rather curious. Tourists have gone missing, animals mauled and cars destroyed. The man in charge of TSS, a fellow named Finn is a bit of a louse too.
Hans (Otto Jespersen) is, by far, the best part of this entire film. His character is a classic example of the deadpan Norwegian humor that is a trademark of the country's film industry. He plays the role of a knight-errant troll hunter perfectly who is clearly tired of the "game" and decides to let these college students expose the truth to the world. All that red tape! The long hours with no overtime pay! He's had enough! He is, despite his dry humor, haunted by what he's been doing for decades now. He has been, essentially, putting down beasts that, for the most part, don't bothe human beings.
The dry exposition that Hans spouts is actually one of the better components of the film. The mythos of the trolls is actually quite interesting. The film crew is quickly educated on subjects such as troll taxonomy and even some history in regards to the creature's presence in Norway. There are various types ranging in size and veracity but all of them are rather dumb but dangerous predators. They love eating sheep and goats, hide food under bridges, and can, apparently, sniff out the blood of Christians. Interesting.
The trolls themselves range from rather goofy looking to genuinely intimidating as the movie rolls on. They are this strange combination of off-putting, almost comedic and threatening that really gives the movie's action set pieces a nice kick. They are those troll figurines that tourists bring home from their trips to Scandanavia but overgrown, bulbous, downright ridiculous and their running amok in the middle of Norway!
Found footage seems to be all the rage in genre flicks but this is one of the few that does it right. The film crew is cheerful and dogged in their pursuit of the truth, Hans is a glowering hunter who's seen too much, and all the while there are so many great shots of the spectacular Nordic scenery. The trolls can be a bit silly to look at, but honestly, this "documentary" is done in such a winking style anyway that it all just fits together very well.
The film is available on DVD and also on Netflix's Instant Streaming service.