Trollhunter

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Laura Clifford 
Trollhunter

Robin Clifford 

Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) is an aspiring journalist from Norway's Volda College.  When a series of bear slayings being to puzzle the media, he brings along cameraman Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and sound engineer Johanna (Johanna Mørck) to investigate and begins to hear rumblings about a mysterious poacher.  At first, Hans (Otto Jespersen), who lives in a reeking camper and leaves in a specially outfitted Land Rover during the evening hours, wants nothing to do with them, but when Thomas persists, following the man into a posted blasting danger zone, the students are astonished to learn he is a government payrolled "Trollhunter."

Laura:
Writer/director André Øvredal wanted his first feature to reflect Norwegian legend and remembered a book, ‘The Fairy Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe,’ from the 1850's which had been read to him as a child.  Many of the stories were about trolls, illustrated by Theodor Kittelsen, and Øvredal had his subject.  His film plays like a northern response to Gareth Edwards's "Monsters," using the found footage device of "Cloverfield" with dashes of "Jurassic Park" and the satirical humor of neighboring Finland's "Rare Exports."

Everything about the man they're following could be explained by bears - the long claw marks covering his Rover, the stink of bear grease - but something's just off.  Why is it that the latest bear found shot appears to have been dragged into place?  Why does the mysterious tracker only go out at night?  When they follow him into the restricted area, they hear outrageous sounds, the earth actually rumbles and a strange light flashes purple from over a bluff.  Then their hunted comes charging through the brush screaming a warning - 'Troll!'

He tells the kids his name and asks if any of them are Christian, as trolls can smell the blood of a God fearing man.  Hans will let them document him as he is tired of his job, the long hours, the lousy benefits, but only if they will do exactly as he says.  His first request - to smear themselves with troll stench - is met with disgust, but eventually all three cooperate.  At the thirty minute mark, they, and we, see our first troll, a creature which crests the towering pines and has three heads, a “Tosserlad!”  Hans waits until it enters a clearing then blasts it with bursts of UV-B rays which turn it into stone.

Øvredal's film is essentially a series of encounters with different species of trolls which have more and more dangerous consequences, but he most maintains interest by slowly doling out the creatures' mythology (they eat rocks, like to chew on tires, cannot process vitamin D, etc.) and the government's way of dealing with them (power lines in the north are actually electrified fences, 'slayed troll' forms, imported bear carcass coverups, etc.).  The group is dogged by Wildlife Board official, Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen), actually the head of Norway’s Troll Security Service (TSS), who is apoplectic that his only hunter has a film crew tagging along.  The trolls themselves are beautifully animated CGI creatures, each variety unique, equally terrifying and amusing like something created by Jim Henson's evil twin.  The penultimate encounter, where the foursome are caught inside the cave of Mountain Kings, proves lethal for one after the most overtly funny introduction (the trolls's noses cannot help but call up male genitalia and they have an exaggerated issue with intestinal gasses).

"Trollhunter" paints Hans as an unacknowledged Norwegian hero, a tip of the hat to those who perform dangerous and thankless tasks for the good of others.  At least there is a hinted romance in his relationship with the veterinarian who analyzes a blood sample for an ailing Ringlefinch (collected with great personal risk by baiting a bridge with a goat).  The work also takes place in a series of stunning Norwegian landscapes that highlight its valleys, mountains and fiords, the last sequence, in far northern regions, almost alien in its harshness and isolation.

A coda featuring Norway's prime minister Jens Stoltenberg addressing power lines at a press conference proves a coup for the filmmaker when he refers to trolls - with a little bit of editing, the audience never knows he wasn't in on the joke (he was referring to The Troll Field, an oil field off the coast).

B

Robin:
Robin gives "Troll Hunter" a B-.
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